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Wall St jumps as jobs, services data calm rate hike worries

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Traders work on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., January 5, 2023. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Wall Street’s main indexes rallied on Friday as data that showed cooling wages and a contraction in U.S. services activity eased worries over the Federal Reserve’s rate-hike trajectory.

The nonfarm payrolls rose by 223,000 jobs in December, data from the Labor Department showed, while a 0.3% rise in average earnings was smaller than expected and lower than the previous month.

The numbers for November were revised to show nonfarm payrolls rose by 256,000 and average earnings grew by 0.4%.

Another set of data showed U.S. services activity contracted for the first time in more than 2-1/2 years in December amid weakening demand, with more signs of inflation easing.

“These are all the signs that show that Fed’s policy is working,” said Mike Loewengart, head of model portfolio construction at Morgan Stanley Global Investment Office in New York.

“That is what investors are relieved to see because it shows that they are not going to have to become much more restrictive than they have.”

Big technology and other growth stocks such as Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) rose around 2% each, boosted by a decline in the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield.

A resilient labor market has powered the economy through consumer spending, but could prompt the Fed to lift its target interest rate above the 5.1% peak it had projected last month and keep it there for a while.

Money market participants now see 75% chance that the U.S. central bank will raise the benchmark rate by 25-basis point in February and keep the terminal rate just below 5% by June.

Also aiding sentiment were Fed officials acknowledging cooling wage growth and other signs of the economy gradually slowing, with Atlanta President Raphael Bostic hinting at the chances of a quarter percentage point hike at the next policy meeting.

At 12:11 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) was up 601.66 points, or 1.83%, at 33,531.74, the S&P 500 (.SPX) was up 69.18 points, or 1.82%, at 3,877.28, and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) was up 187.11 points, or 1.82%, at 10,492.35.

All the major S&P 500 indexes gained, led by consumer staples (.SPLRCS), which rose 6.6% on boost from Costco Wholesale Corp (COST.O) after the membership-only retail chain reported strong sales growth in December.

Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) advanced 2.5% on reports of talks with China to secure a license that will allow domestic drugmakers to manufacture and distribute a generic version of the U.S. firm’s COVID-19 antiviral drug Paxlovid in China.

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc (BBBY.O) slid 20.4% after Reuters reported that the home goods retailer was preparing to seek bankruptcy protection in coming weeks.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 7.02-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and 2.61-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 16 new 52-week highs and five new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 65 new highs and 59 new lows.

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