S&P 500 hits record on rebound in US job growth, energy shares

06 May, 2017 1:48 pm

NEW YORK – Major U.S. stock indexes gained on Friday, with the S&P 500 ending at a record high close, as energy stocks bounced back along with oil prices and U.S. job growth rebounded.

U.S. nonfarm payrolls surged by 211,000 jobs last month after a paltry gain of 79,000 in March, and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.4 percent, near a 10-year low.

Energy was the best performing sector, rising 1.6 percent, after falling sharply a day earlier. Oil prices rebounded following assurances by Saudi Arabia that Russia is ready to join OPEC in extending supply cuts.

“There has been and probably will continue to be a little bit of a fear that perhaps the economy isn’t accelerating like people thought it would or want it to…,” said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana.

“So any day where you get a little bit more confirmation that perhaps the economy is OK – and we got that today in the sense of an OK jobs report, oil is up, transports are doing better today – that that probably is something that helped the broader market,” Carlson said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 55.47 points, or 0.26 percent, to 21,006.94, the S&P 500 gained 9.77 points, or 0.41 percent, to 2,399.29 and the Nasdaq Composite added 25.42 points, or 0.42 percent, to 6,100.76.

All three indexes posted gains for a third straight week.

After seven sessions of not moving more than 0.2 percent in either direction, the S&P 500 eclipsed that range on Friday as stocks strengthened late in the day.

The S&P 500 has gained 12.1 percent since President Donald Trump’s Nov. 8 election, fueled by his plans for tax cuts, infrastructure spending and deregulation. But the rally had slowed as some investors questioned Trump’s ability to enact his agenda.

The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged at its policy meeting this week. The central bank downplayed weak first-quarter economic growth while emphasizing the strong labor market, in a sign it was still on track for two more rate rises this year. Investors are pricing in a 75 percent chance of a hike in June, according to Thomson Reuters data.

In corporate news, IBM shares fell 2.5 percent after Warren Buffett said he sold about one-third of Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s stake in the company.

Earnings season has come in generally above expectations, encouraging investors. First-quarter profits at S&P 500 companies are estimated to have increased 14.7 percent, the strongest since 2011, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Shares of health insurer Cigna and IT services provider Cognizant rose after their respective reports.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.66-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.39-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 55 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 123 new highs and 67 new lows.

About 6.5 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, just below the 6.6 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions. –Reuters

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