Stocks shake off losses, skyrocket; jobs report, Fed’s stance ease anxiety

U.S. stocks soared Friday, helped by a strong jobs report and encouraging words from the Federal Reserve chairman, a day after fears about China’s slowing economy sent shock waves through markets worldwide.

The S&P 500 index climbed 84.05 points, or 3.4 percent, to 2,531.94, more than wiping out Thursday’s loss. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 3.3 percent to 23,433.16 after adding 832 points at one juncture during the afternoon, ending with a gain of 746.94. The Nasdaq composite jumped 275.35 points, or 4.3 percent, to 6,738.86.

The Labor Department said U.S. employers added 312,000 jobs last month, a far stronger result than experts had anticipated. U.S. stocks have tumbled since October as investors worried that the economy might slow down dramatically because of challenges including the trade dispute and rising interest rates. Although unemployment rose to its highest level since July at 3.9 percent, economists believe the increase is because more people are looking for jobs, with some 400,000 people on the hunt last month.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell gave investors another boost by noting that the central bank would “watch to see how the economy evolves,” suggesting it would ease the rate of interest-rate increases if the economy falters.

Hopes for progress in the U.S.-China trade dispute also helped cheer investors.

China’s Commerce Ministry said trade talks will be held Monday and Tuesday in Beijing, and investors will again look for signs the world’s largest economic powers are resolving their dispute. The tensions have dragged on for nearly a year, slowing business and dragging down stock indexes worldwide.

The first week of 2019 has been riddled with the same volatility that plagued Wall Street throughout December, fueled by a partial government shutdown and concerns that China’s status as an engine of the global economy is likely in jeopardy.

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