Wall Street Gains As Rate Hike Jitters Ease Ahead Of Payrolls Report

(MENAFN– Khaleej Times) Wall Street’s main indexes rose on Thursday after a jump in weekly jobless claims soothed worries about sharper interest rate hikes ahead of a key jobs report that could determine the Federal Reserve’s future monetary policy.

Jobless claims increased by the most in five months last week, and the reading followed recent evidence of a tight labor market, which, along with hawkish comments by Fed Chair Jerome Powell, had exacerbated concerns that the central bank could keep interest rate higher for longer.

Bets of a 50 basis point rate hike at the Fed’s March meeting slipped to 68 per cent after the report from 72 per cent, with the terminal rate now seen at 5.63 per cent in September compared with 5.67 per cent prior to the data..

Expectations of a 50-basis point rate hike had gone up dramatically during the course of Powell’s two-day testimony when he signal led the central bank’s readiness for sharper rate hikes, but emphasized that the decision hinged on economic data before the policy meeting.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 211,000 for the week ended March 4, the Labour Department said on Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 195,000 claims for the latest week.

At 11:49 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 37.70 points, or 0.11 per cent, at 32,836.10, the S&P 500 was up 6.95 points, or 0.17 per cent, at 3,998.96, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 39.86 points, or 0.34 per cent, at 11,615.86 U.S.-listed shares of JD.com Inc dropped 10.6 per cent after the Chinese e-commerce firm missed fourth-quarter revenue estimates.

‘There’s a lot of cash on the sidelines and a lot of negativity is priced in,’ said David Russell, vice president of market intelligence at TradeStation.

‘The jobless claims were soft and that is giving some relief right now to stocks. The dollar is weakening as well, so those are taking off a lot of the negativity.’

Easing US two-year Treasury yields also helped Big Tech and growth companies such as Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc, Microsoft, Alphabet Inc advance between 0.5 per cent and 1.9 per cent.

The gains lifted the S&P 500 consumer discretionary and information technology sectors 0.3 per cent and 0.9 per cent, respectively.

Limiting the S&P 500’s gains, banks dropped 4.3 per cent, with SVB Financial Group down 41.8 per cent and heading toward its biggest one-day percentage loss in about twenty-five years as the startup-focused lender slashed its 2023 outlook and launched a share sale to shore up its balance sheet.

Also weighing on the sub-index, Signature Bank fell 8.1 per cent after its peer Silvergate Capital Corp disclosed plans to voluntarily liquidate.

Market focus is now on the February non-farm payrolls report on Friday, which is expected to show payrolls rose by 205,000 last month after January’s blowout 517,000 figure, which had first led markets to reprice their expectations for U.S. interest rates.

General Electric Co rose 7.4 per cent to an about five-year high as the industrial conglomerate reiterated its 2023 earnings forecast.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.36-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 1.59-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded five new 52-week highs and 14 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 47 new highs and 149 new lows.