Wall Street rallies on jobs report, Powell comments

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks surged over 2.5 percent on Friday, boosted by a robust U.S. jobs report, plans for fresh Sino-U.S. trade talks and as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell pledged patience and sensitivity to risks in the markets.

FILE PHOTO: Traders look at price monitors as they work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, New York, U.S., January 3, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The rally puts Wall Street on course to erase all losses from a day earlier, when stocks plunged after slowing U.S. factory activity on the heels of Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) dire revenue warning fueled fears of a global economic slowdown.

Nonfarm payrolls surged by 312,000 jobs in December, the largest gain since February and sailed past economists’ expectations of 177,000 jobs. Wages also rose, while the unemployment rate improved, the Labor Department said.

While the report allayed fears over slowing economic growth, there were some concerns that the healthy data would let the Fed stick with its projection for two interest rate hikes this year.

But Powell moved to mollify financial markets, saying that while economic momentum is solid, the Fed is sensitive to the risks highlighted by investors and will be patient with its monetary policy in 2019.

“His (Powell’s) comments are being interpreted as dovish,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

“The things he said today are leading traders and investors to believe that the Fed is willing to potentially change their projections for rate hikes this year.”

All the 11 major S&P sectors were higher. Technology stocks .SPLRCT, coming off their biggest one-day percentage drop since August 2011 on Thursday, jumped 3.8 percent, leading the gains.

The trade-sensitive industrials sector .SPLRCI rose 2.7 percent after Beijing announced a new round of trade talks with Washington on Jan. 7-8 to try and resolve their dispute.

At 11:35 a.m., ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 593.82 points, or 2.62 percent, at 23,280.04, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 66.37 points, or 2.71 percent, at 2,514.26 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 229.58 points, or 3.55 percent, at 6,693.08.

The heavyweight FAANG stocks — Facebook Inc (FB.O), Apple, Inc (AMZN.O), Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) and Google-parent Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) — surged between 3.6 percent and 7.8 percent, bolstering gains on the S&P and Nasdaq.

Despite the rally, U.S. stocks are anchored near mid-2017 lows, with a chunk of the losses coming last month in what was the S&P’s worst December since the Great Depression. The selloff was squarely due to mounting evidence of a global economic slowdown and fears of its effect on corporate profits.

Analysts now estimate earnings at S&P 500 companies rose 15.1 percent in the fourth quarter, outpacing the 14.8 percent growth in the year-ago quarter, according to Refinitiv’s IBES. But, that is lower than the 20 percent growth forecast in early October.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 6.76-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 6.33-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P recorded no new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded three new highs and 11 new lows.

Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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