Wall Street chugs higher on jobs data, trade optimism


By Sruthi Shankar and Shreyashi Sanyal

April 5 () - Wall Street's main indexes rose on Friday after data showed U.S. employment growth was better-than-expected in March, easing concerns of a domestic slowdown, while hopes of a U.S.-China trade deal boosted sentiment.

The Labor Department report showed nonfarm payrolls accelerated from a 17-month low and topped economists' estimates, as milder weather boosted hiring in sectors like construction.

The report adds to fairly upbeat construction spending and factory numbers that led Wall Street banks to boost their growth estimates for the first quarter.

"I think the market loves it. Just last week we were looking at an inverted yield curve and potential recession fears," said Sandy Villere, portfolio manager of the Villere Balanced Fund.

The Federal Reserve last month suspended its three-year campaign to tighten monetary policy, increasing market expectations of an interest rate cut in early 2020.

However, the latest job numbers gave traders little reason to reprice those expectations which had gained traction when the U.S. Treasury yield curve briefly inverted in late March, reviving recession fears.

Bank stocks, which tend to benefit from a rising interest-rate environment, dipped 0.1%.

The markets were also helped by President Donald Trump's comments on Thursday that the U.S. and China were close to a trade deal that could be announced within four weeks. Although Trump later said he would not predict that a deal will be reached.

Trade hopes and a dovish Fed have helped push the S&P 500 to its highest since Oct. 9, putting the index 1.7% away from an all-time high of 2,940.91 points.

The benchmark index is now on track to close higher for seven days in a row, eyeing its best such winning streak since October 2017.

At 11:14 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 36.31 points, or 0.14%, at 26,420.94, the S&P 500 was up 11.87 points, or 0.41%, at 2,891.26 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 40.52 points, or 0.51%, at 7,932.30.

Energy stocks jumped 1.27%, the most among the ten major S&P indexes that were trading higher, as oil prices firmed.

The technology sector rose 0.34%, rebounding from the previous session's fall, supported by Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp.

"It looks like we're coming to some conclusion on trade and you've already seen technology names respond," Villere added.

However, capping gains on the Dow Industrials was Dow Inc, which dropped 4.5% after J.P. Morgan started coverage on the company, which was spun-off from DowDuPont Inc, with an "underweight" rating.

Intel Corp slipped 1.1% after Wells Fargo downgraded the chipmaker's stock to "market perform" from "outperform".

Boeing Co dipped 0.5% after brokerage UBS cut its price target on the planemaker's shares and said the preliminary Ethiopian report pointed to the MCAS anti-stall software as a common contributor to the recent fatal crashes.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 3.21-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 2.54-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 27 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 52 new highs and 14 new lows.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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