NEW YORK -- Stocks fell Friday to close out a rare losing week for Wall Street following mixed reports on the U.S. job market and two of the market's most influential stocks.
The S&P 500 sank 23.86, or 0.5%, to 4,478.03. It was the fourth straight drop for Wall Street's main measure of health after it set a 16-month high at the start of the week.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average also drifted between gains and losses through the day before ending with a loss. It dropped 150.27 points, or 0.4%, to 35,065.62, and the Nasdaq composite gave up 50.48, or 0.4%, to 13,909.24.
Treasury yields tumbled in the bond market after a highly anticipated U.S. jobs report said hiring was a touch weaker last month than economists expected, though wages for workers rose more than forecast.
The job market is in a precarious place, where investors want a reading that’s neither too hot nor too cold. On one hand, investors want it to remain strong enough to keep the economy out of a long-predicted recession. On the other, they don’t want wage growth in particular to be so strong that the Federal Reserve sees it putting upward pressure on inflation.
Friday’s reading offered no slam dunks for either side, but analysts said it may suggest a job market that’s moderating.
“Over the last year the labor market has shifted from one where everyone wins to one where there are plenty of areas of weakness,” said Brian Jacobsen, chief economist at Annex Wealth Management. “Wage growth was stronger than expected, but coupled with a shorter workweek you get lower incomes. Fed officials will see what they want to see, but it’s pretty clear that manufacturing is struggling and services is slowing.”
If the job market keeps moderating, it could allow inflation to continue to cool from its peak reached last summer. That in turn would bolster Wall Street’s hopes that the Federal Reserve won’t hike interest rates any more.
High rates work to grind down iNFLation by slowing the overall economy and hurting prices for investments. The Fed has already pulled its federal funds rate to its highest level in more than two decades, up from virtually zero early last year.
Critics, though, say it’s far from assured that iNFLation will easily drop back down to the Fed’s target and that the economy will avoid a painful recession. That’s why they say the 19.5% surge for the S&P 500 through this year’s first seven months was too much, too fast. This week was just the third losing week for the S&P 500 in the last 12.
Big Tech stocks in particular led Wall Street's charge this year, with expectations for strong continued growth leading to tremendous gains in their stock prices. Two of them offered a mixed picture of their results after trading ended Thursday.
Amazon jumped 8.3% in its first trading after it reported a much bigger profit for the spring than expected. The company said growth for its important cloud-computing business stabilized during the quarter, and its revenue also topped analysts’ forecasts.
Apple, though, slumped 4.8% despite reporting stronger profit than expected. Its revenue only just barely topped analysts’ estimates, and its forecast for revenue in the current quarter didn’t blow past expectations.
Its stock had already cruised 47% higher for the year through Thursday, with its total value topping $3 trillion, meaning high expectations were built into its price.
Because it’s the biggest stock on Wall Street by market value, Apple’s movements pack extra punch on the S&P 500 and other indexes. It was the single biggest weight on the S&P 500 Friday by far.
Like Amazon and Apple, most companies in the S&P 500 have been reporting stronger profits for the spring than analysts expected. That's usually the case, but expectations were particularly low coming into this reporting season. Analysts are still calling for the worst drop in profit declines for S&P 500 companies in nearly three years.
Booking Holdings jumped 7.9% for one of the biggest gains in the S&P 500 after it blew past analysts' forecasts for the spring. It said customers are looking to book leisure travel, and the strong demand is continuing into the current quarter. Its brands include Booking.com and Priceline.
In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury dropped to 4.04% from 4.18% late Thursday. It helps set rates for mortgages and other important loans.
The two-year Treasury yield, which moves more on expectations for the Fed, fell to 4.77% from 4.89%.
In stock markets abroad, indexes were mostly higher across Europe and Asia.
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