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Wall Street's Rally Hits Wall Friday   02/03 16:01

   Wall Street's big rally to start the year wilted on Friday after a 
surprisingly strong jobs report fueled worries about inflation and higher 
interest rates.

   NEW YORK (AP) -- Wall Street's big rally to start the year wilted on Friday 
after a surprisingly strong jobs report fueled worries about inflation and 
higher interest rates.

   The S&P 500 fell 1% for its first drop in four days, though it took an 
up-and-down route to get there. The bond market was more decisive in thinking 
the strong jobs data could push the Federal Reserve to stay firmer than 
expected on high interest rates, which hurt the economy and markets.

   The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 127 points, or 0.4%, while the 
Nasdaq composite sank 1.6%.

   The market already looked like it was set to weaken coming into the day, 
before the jolting jobs report dropped. Late Thursday, several Big Tech 
companies among Wall Street's most influential reported weaker profit for the 
latest quarter than analysts expected.

   That cast concerns over a rally that had brought the S&P 500 back to its 
highest level since August, driven by hopes that cooling inflation may get the 
Federal Reserve to take a pause soon on its hikes to interest rates and 
possibly even cut them by late this year.

   Then came the jobs report, which showed employers created a net 517,000 jobs 
last month. That was way above the 185,000 that economists expected and a sharp 
acceleration from December's 260,000 jobs.

   Normally, a strong jobs report is good for Wall Street because it means the 
economy is on firmer footing. But in this upside-down post-COVID world, it 
could also be a worrisome sign. The Fed is in the middle of trying to cool down 
the job market, in hopes of taking pressure off inflation.

   The concern in the market is that the much stronger-than-expected hiring 
could keep the Fed on the "higher-for-longer" path on interest rates that it's 
been talking about, even if markets haven't been believing it fully.

   "It's going to get harder to argue that rate cuts may be in 2023's future if 
the labor market is able to continue like this, especially considering that it 
remains to be seen how quickly inflation will fall, even if we have reached the 
peak," said Mike Loewengart, head of model portfolio construction at Morgan 
Stanley Global Investment Office.

   Treasury yields zoomed higher immediately after the jobs report on forecasts 
for a firm Fed. The yield on the two-year Treasury, which tends to track 
expectations for the Fed, jumped to 4.30% from 4.10% late Thursday. The 10-year 
yield, which helps sets rates for mortgages and other important loans, rose to 
3.53% from 3.40%.

   The reaction in the stock market was more hesitant. Stocks opened with sharp 
losses, erased them all and then fell back later.

   Some analysts said they were paying more attention to the data on wages in 
the jobs report than on overall hiring, which wasn't as surprising.

   Average hourly earnings for workers were 4.4% higher in January than a year 
earlier. That's a slowdown from December's 4.8% raise, though it was a touch 
above expectations. Slower wage gains can mean less pressure on inflation, 
though it hurts workers trying to keep up with rising prices at the register.

   "The Fed has been downplaying the importance of the unemployment rate and 
payrolls number, focusing more on wage gains instead," said Brian Jacobsen, 
senior investment strategist at Allspring Global Investments. "Wage gains were 
in line with the consensus expectations, so I'm not as worried as most about 
the path ahead for the Fed."

   Also helping to muddy the picture was a report showing the U.S. services 
sector returned to growth in January. It was a much stronger reading than 
expected, though it also suggested pricing pressures may be easing.

   Drops for some Big Tech stocks were weighing on the market following 
weaker-than-expected earnings reports.

   Amazon fell 8.4% and was the single biggest weight on the S&P 500, while 
Google's parent company dropped 2.7%. Because they're among the most valuable 
stocks on Wall Street, their movements carry more weight on the S&P 500 than 
others.

   On the winning side was Clorox, which jumped 9.8% after reporting much 
stronger profit for the end of 2022 than expected.

   All told, the S&P 500 fell 43.28 to 4,136.48. The Dow dropped 127.93 to 
33,926.01, and the Nasdaq lost 193.86 to 12,006.95.

   Despite the stall, the S&P 500 still closed out its fourth winning week in 
the last five. It also remains 15.6% above its low point reached in October.

 
 
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