Jobs report lifts Wall Street; S&P 500 still tracks worst week in six

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks rose on Friday as moderate jobs growth in September offered some relief from a spate of dismal economic data this week that has rankled markets and fueled concerns that the United States was sliding into a recession.

A rally in technology stocks led by Apple Inc also helped lift Wall Street’s main indexes at the end of a volatile week. After losing about 3% earlier this week, the S&P 500 was on course for its best day in a month on Friday.

The Labor Department’s report showed nonfarm payrolls increased by 136,000 last month and unemployment rate dropped to a 50-year low, but manufacturing payrolls declined for the first time in six months.

“It’s sort of a Goldilocks report: it’s not strong enough to move the Federal Reserve away from cutting rates at the end of October, but it’s not weak enough to make you concerned about the labor market or the consumer,” said Shawn Snyder, head of investment strategy at Citi Personal Wealth Management in New York.

Bets of interest rate cuts by the Fed soared this week after a dramatic contraction in U.S. factory activity, cooling private sector hiring and a fall in service sector activity evidenced the fallout from a prolonged U.S.-China trade war.

Traders currently see a 76% chance for the central bank to lower borrowing costs at its policy meeting later this month, from 40% on Monday.

The Fed had cut rates in September for the second time this year and said that future reductions would be “data-dependent”.

The S&P had gapped lower on Wednesday after bleak manufacturing data. On Friday, the index recovered to trade near its Tuesday close.

The benchmark index is now 3% away from its record high hit in July after coming within striking distance of it

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