S&P 500, Dow hit record highs as solid jobs data boosts cyclicals

(Reuters) – The Dow and the S&P 500 indexes rose to record highs on Friday, boosted by soaring stocks in economy-linked sectors following a better-than-expected rise in jobs in July, while investors shrugged off concerns over the Delta variant impacting a nascent economic recovery.

FILE PHOTO: A trader works on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., August 5, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 943,000 jobs last month, a Labor Department report showed. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls would increase by 870,000 jobs.

The Labor Department’s closely watched employment report also showed strong wage gains, as employers competed for scarce workers, and a drop in the unemployment rate to a 16-month low.

“The market (today) is being driven by the employment report. It was very strong by any measure – the unemployment rate, the number of new jobs, the revisions”, said Jay Hatfield, chief executive of Infrastructure Capital Management in New York.

“Since, really, mid-May, we’ve had the fear of a growth slowdown, both possibly because of the Fed tightening and also the Delta variant,” he added. “Today sort of showed that those fears are probably overblown. Now people are rotating back into cyclicals.”

Four of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were higher in afternoon trading, with financials gaining 1.94%. The S&P 500 technology sector index fell 0.22%.

Although the three main indexes are set to end the week with gains following a stellar corporate earnings season, fears of higher inflation resulting in a sudden tapering in monetary policy have hurt sentiment.

Focus now turns to a meeting of Federal Reserve leaders in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, later this month to discuss policy and decide future stimulus strategy.

By 1:33 p.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 151.91 points, or 0.43%, to 35,216.16, and the S&P 500 gained 8.07 points, or 0.18%, to 4,437.17.

The Nasdaq Composite dropped 64.24 points, or 0.43%, to 14,830.88, pressured by declines in growth stocks including Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp and Amazon.com Inc.

On the earnings front, American International Group Inc rose 4.8% after it beat second-quarter profit estimates on Thursday.

Zynga Inc tumbled 18.3% after issuing a disappointing forecast for bookings and announcing a potential acquisition worth over half a billion dollars.

Corteva Inc rose 8.0% after raising its net sales forecast for the year.

Analysts expect second-quarter profit growth of 92.9% for S&P 500 companies, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Of the 427 companies in the index that have reported earnings so far, 87.6% beat analyst expectations, the highest on record.

In other corporate news, shares of Robinhood Markets Inc rallied 10% on Friday after a roller-coaster week that has made the online brokerage among the hottest of so-called meme stocks and added $18 billion to its value.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.42-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.02-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 42 new 52-week highs and 1 new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 104 new highs and 68 new lows.

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