Stocks Edge Higher After Encouraging Report on US Job Growth

KEN SWEET, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market edged higher in afternoon trading Friday, helped by a strong jobs report for October, keeping the market out of danger of declining for a ninth straight day. Investors continue to focus on the U.S. presidential election.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average added 43 points, or 0.2 percent, 17,974 as of 1:30 p.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 8 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,096 and the Nasdaq composite rose 22 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,081.

PRESIDENTIAL RACE: With five days left until the election, Hillary Clinton is still leading in national polling but Donald Trump appears to have narrowed the gap, particularly in swing states. Investors like certainty, and Clinton is seen as likely to maintain the status quo. Trump’s policies are less clear, and the uncertainty has caused jitters in financial markets.

Wall Street’s proxy for Trump’s chances at winning, the Mexican peso, has been stable most of the day at 19.24 to the dollar.

ANALYST TAKE: “No one really knows what Trump would do should he get into power, probably not even himself,” said Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG. “It is that uncertainty that is driving the market negativity that has dominated this week.”

JOBS BACKDROP: Investors found some solace in data that showed U.S. employers added a decent 161,000 jobs in October and raised pay sharply for many workers. The Labor Department’s monthly employment report Friday sketched a picture of a resilient job market. The pace of hiring has been consistent with a decent economy. The unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent from 5 percent. And average hourly pay took a big step up, rising 10 cents an hour to an average of $25.92. That is 2.8 percent higher than a year ago and is the sharpest 12-month rise in seven years.

“This is really good for the U.S. consumer, especially as we head into the critical holiday shopping season,” Michael Scanlon, a portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management.

With the election coming up in less than a week, the October jobs report is likely to give the Federal Reserve enough ammunition to raise interest rates at its December meeting, economists said. The Fed ended a two-day meeting on Wednesday where they decided to hold rates steady.

“It seems that the only remaining obstacle to the Fed hiking in December would be a significant adverse financial market reaction to the U.S. presidential election,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, in an email.

OUT OF FOCUS: GoPro, the maker of wearable cameras, was down 26 cents, or 2 percent, to $11.68. The company reported a 40 percent drop in revenue in the quarter, and gave a negative outlook for the holiday season. Like Fitbit, GoPro is showing signs of being unable to expand its product line beyond athletes and thrill-seekers. However the stock has recovered nearly all of its losses from earlier in the day.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 79 cents to $43.88 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, declined 91 cents to $45.44 a barrel in London.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.78 percent from 1.81 percent the day before. The euro rose to $1.1119 from $1.1109 and the dollar rose to 103.07 yen from 102.99 yen.

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