Dow jumps 500 points as December jobs report eases rate worries

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Wall Street’s main indexes rallied on Friday as a slew of economic data including cooling wages and moderation in US jobs growth in December calmed worries over the Federal Reserve’s rate-hike trajectory.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared 552 points, or 1.7%, to 33,483, the S&P 500 climbed 1.7% and the Nasdaq was up 1.6%.

The nonfarm payrolls rose by 223,000 jobs in December, data from the Labor Department showed, while a 0.3% rise in average earnings was smaller than expected and lower than the previous month.

The numbers for November were revised to show nonfarm payrolls rose by 256,000 and average earnings grew by 0.4%.

“Fed will look at these numbers and say the labor market is still pretty robust,” said Richard Flax, chief investment officer at Moneyfarm.

“Maybe if you wanted to be very optimistic, you would say that a slowdown in the growth of average hourly earnings is a positive thing, but it’s a single data point.”

Another set of data showed US services activity contracted for the first time in more than 2-1/2 years in December amid weakening demand, with more signs of inflation abating.

Big technology and other growth stocks such as Microsoft, Apple and Meta Platforms rose between 0.5% and 2.%, helped by a decline in the 10-year US Treasury yield. 

Tesla dropped 4.2% after the company cut electric-car prices in China for the second time in less than three months.

A resilient labor market has powered the economy through consumer spending, but could prompt the Fed to lift its target interest rate above the 5.1% peak it had projected last month and keep it there for a while.

Earlier this week, minutes from the Fed’s December meeting showed that the central bank was laser-focused on fighting inflation even as officials agreed to slow the pace of rate hikes to limit risks to economic growth.

Money market bets of a 25-basis point hike in the February policy meeting shot up to 73% and the terminal rate was seen edging below 5% by June. 

Investors will also focus on comments from a slew of Fed officials scheduled to speak later on Friday.

Bed Bath & Beyond slid 15.7% after Reuters reported that the home goods retailer was preparing to seek bankruptcy protection in coming weeks.