Weekend Vibes. Stocks soared on Friday, as spirits were lifted by a number of factors, from hopes for trade war negotiations to robust jobs numbers and the Federal Reserve chief’s latest remarks. Not even threats about a prolonged government shutdown from the White House could kill the party. In today’s After the Bell, we…
- …check in on a good jobs report;
- …get a little help from the Fed;
- …and push past the drama in D.C.
We Do the Dance of Joy
It’s a new year, the weekend is at hand, and there was nothing stopping stocks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 746.94 points, or 3.29%, to 23,433.16. The S&P 500 closed up 84.05 points, or 3.43%, to 2531.94, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 275.35, points or 4.26%, to 6738.86.
Stocks started strong out of the gate, helped by another upbeat employment report, which saw the U.S. add 312,000 jobs last month, with upward revisions for previous months. “The jobs report released today was strong across the board,” writes The Conference Board’s Gad Levanon, who believes this is the latest stat to show that it’s too soon to talk about a recession. “While we do expect some slowdown in the US economy and labor market, this jobs report should boost confidence in the US economy.”
Moreover, it wasn’t just the headline numbers that were strong, but take-home pay as well, as the report noted higher wages are bringing more people back into the labor market. “Given that consumers are 70% of the economy, this has very positive implications for economic growth prospects and the potential longevity of the current expansion,” echoes Amerprise’s Russell Price.
Of course, that’s a double-edged sword: Strong job numbers are comforting on one hand, but good economic news often lends fuel to the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike plan. However, today at least, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell had a calming effect on markets: Investors took his remarks this morning in Atlanta as a sign that he’s open to ongoing worries, rather than blithely pushing ahead on data alone.
Fundstrat’s Thomas Lee writes that the move diminishes the risk of Fed policy error going forward: He would go further and say risk is now “’off the table’ but those would be famous last words.” Nonetheless, Powell’s comments suggest that the central bank “now sees eye to eye with the message from liquid markets.”
That’s a relief, given how concerns about monetary policy dominated many recent selloffs, but it wasn’t the only problem. LPL Financial’s John Lynch writes that “trade tensions have been the primary weight on recent economic data,” and in this case we’re in luck. Reports that the U.S. and China will be back at the negotiating table next week bolstered Friday’s enthusiasm. As well it should have, says Lynch, who expects a “U.S.-China trade agreement soon.”
Against this backdrop, even a White House press conference that raised the specter of a government shutdown lasting “years” didn’t make a dent. Then again, if all of today’s hopes keep playing out, the market may be able to work around the very stable geniuses of Washington.
Write to Teresa Rivas at [email protected]