Stock-market index futures pivot higher after jobs figures show signs of cooling

Futures for U.S. stock benchmarks on Friday turned decidedly higher after a key reading of domestic employment came in weaker than expected, at least on a headline basis. U.S. nonfarm payrolls increased a seasonally adjusted 155,000 last month, the Labor Department reported. The unemployment rate held steady at 3.7%, hanging near the lowest rate since 1969. Year-over-year wage growth matched the prior month’s 3.1% pace as the best rate since 2009. The data is a closely watched amid the Federal Reserve’s plan to normalize interest rates after the 2007-’09 financial crisis. Although some softness in the data following last month’s figures aren’t likely to dissuade the central bank from not lifting benchmark interest rates, currently at a range between 2% and 2.25%, a quarter-of-a-basis-point higher at the conclusion of its two-day meeting on Dec. 19, it may give policy makers, led by Chairman Jerome Powell, some pause in increasing rates in 2019. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average YMZ8, -1.90% were up 32 points, or 0.1%, at 24,937, those for the S&P 500 index ESZ8, -2.02% edged 0.1% up at 2,693, while those for the Nasdaq-100 NQZ8, -2.83% were flat at 6,823. All three index futures were trading lower prior to the report, after the Dow DJIA, -2.24% and S&P 500 SPX, -2.33% ended in negative territory on Thursday, while the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -3.05% produced a 0.4% gain, in a tumultuous session.

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