Stocks Extend Recent Gains…..

U.S. stocks advanced during the regular trading session to extend recent gains and finish the week mostly higher. The advance for equities was aided by a relatively upbeat read on the domestic labor market which followed favorable economic reports out of China and Japan. Treasury yields were mixed and the U.S. dollar was higher, while gold was little changed and crude oil prices rallied.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) increased 119 points (0.5%) to 24,329, the S&P 500 Index was 15 points (0.6%) higher at 2,651, and the NASDAQ Composite advanced 27 points (0.4%) to 6,840. In moderate volume, 740 million shares were traded on the NYSE and 1.8 billion shares changed hands on the NASDAQ WTI crude oil increased $0.67 to $57.36 per barrel and wholesale gasoline gained $0.02 to $1.72 per gallon. Elsewhere, the Bloomberg gold spot price moved $0.71 higher to $1,247.93 per ounce, and the Dollar Index—a comparison of the U.S. dollar to six major world currencies—was 0.1% higher at 93.90. Markets were mixed for the week, as the DJIA and the S&P 500 Index increased 0.4% and the NASDAQ Composite declined 0.1%.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by 228,000 jobs month-over-month (m/m) in November, compared to the Bloomberg forecast of a 195,000 increase. The rise of 261,000 seen in October was revised to a gain of 244,000 jobs. The total upward revision to the job gains in October and September was 3,000. Excluding government hiring and firing, private sector payrolls increased by 221,000, versus the forecasted gain of 195,000, after rising by 247,000 in October, revised from the 252,000 increase that was initially reported. The Department of Labor said employment continued to trend up in professional and business services, manufacturing and healthcare.

The unemployment rate remained at 4.1%, matching estimates, while average hourly earnings were up 0.2% m/m, below projections of a 0.3% increase and versus October’s downwardly revised 0.1% decrease. Y/Y, wage gains were 2.5% higher, versus estimates of a 2.7% increase and October’s downwardly revised 2.3% rise. Finally, average weekly hours ticked higher to 34.5 from October’s unrevised 34.4 rate, where it was forecasted to remain.

Rate hike expectations for when the Fed concludes its meeting next week remained elevated following the relatively favorable employment report but the softer-than-expected wage growth and downward revision to the prior month may have caused some uncertainty regarding the pace of rate hikes in 2018.

The preliminary University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index declined to 96.8 in December, from 98.5 in November, and compared to expectations of an improvement to 99.0. The current economic conditions component of the survey improved but was more than offset by a decline in the expectations part of the report. The 1-year inflation forecast rose to 2.8% from November’s 2.5% rate, while the 5-10 year inflation outlook ticked higher to 2.5% from the prior month’s level of 2.4%.

Wholesale inventories were revised lower to a 0.5% m/m decline for October from the preliminary estimate of a 0.4% decrease, where it was forecasted to remain and compared to September’s 0.1% gain. Sales grew 0.7% m/m, compared to forecasts of a 0.3% increase and September’s upwardly revised 1.4% rise. The inventory-to-sales ratio—the amount of time it would take to deplete inventories at the current sales pace—dipped to a 1.25 months pace from September’s 1.26 rate.

Treasuries finished mixed, with the yield on the 2-year note dipping 1 basis point to 1.79%, the yield on the 10-year note remaining at 2.37%, and the 30-year bond rate increasing 1 to 2.76%.

The U.S. dollar is extended its weekly gain and Treasury yields are diverged on the heels of the employment data, which followed favorable Chinese trade and Japanese GDP figures. Moreover, the markets cheered a breakthrough in the U.K. BREXIT impasse, and a short-term government funding bill late yesterday that should help avoid a U.S. government shutdown this weekend. However, tax reform continues to be a main focus for the markets as the House and Senate grapple with reconciling key differences in their bills.

Schwab Center for Financial Research – Market Analysis Group

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