U.S. stocks oscillated between gains and losses on Friday after data showed U.S. jobs rose far less than expected in September, but not slow enough to throw the Federal Reserve off its presumed course of tapering asset purchases this year.
Six of the 11 major S&P sectors declined, with defensive real estate, healthcare, and utilities among the top losers.
The energy sector jumped 2.9 percent, while a rise in mega-cap growth shares Microsoft, Facebook Inc., and Bank of America provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500.
The banking sub-index gained 0.7 percent, tracking a rise in the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield to its highest level since June 4.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq was weighed down by declines in shares of broadband and cable operator Charter Communications Inc and media company Comcast Corp. which fell 4.6 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively, after downbeat brokerage actions.
The Labor Department’s closely watched nonfarm payrolls report showed the U.S. economy created the fewest jobs in nine months in September amid a drop in hiring at schools and worker shortages. While unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent from 5.2 percent in August, average hourly earnings rose by a more-than-expected 0.6 percent.
“All in all, it is still consistent with continued job growth overall. It may not be as strong as we hoped but it is still showing signs of improvement,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James, St. Petersburg, Florida.
“The Fed has cited sustained improvement in labor market for tapering (and) this adds to the cumulative evidence.”
The weak data did not spur changes to rate hike expectations either. Futures on the federal funds rate has priced in a quarter-point tightening either by November or December next year.
The numbers follow better-than-expected private jobs data and weekly jobless claims report, while a temporary reprieve from U.S. Senate agreeing to raise the federal government’s $28.4 trillion debt limit set the three major U.S. indexes for weekly gains.
At 11:39 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 13.23 points, or 0.04 percent, at 34,768.17, the S&P 500 was up 0.73 points, or 0.02 percent, at 4,400.49, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 35.24 points, or 0.24 percent, at 14,618.77.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.17–to–1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.08–to–1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 23 new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 68 new highs and 65 new lows.
By Devik Jain and Sruthi Shankar