By STAN CHOE and ALEX VEIGA
AP Business Writers
Stocks returned to record highs on Wall Street Friday as traders took a discouraging jobs report as a sign that Congress may finally move on delivering more aid for the pandemic-striken economy. The S&P 500 rose 0.9% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.8%. In another bullish signal, small-company stocks, which stand to benefit greatly from an improving economy, rose much more than the rest of the market. Investors are also banking on hopes that the upcoming distribution of coronavirus vaccines will start getting the global economy on the path back to normalcy some time next year.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
U.S. stocks are ticking higher and heading back toward record highs on Friday, despite discouraging data detailing how much damage the deepening pandemic is doing to the job market.
The S&P 500 was 0.6% higher in afternoon trading, putting it on pace to erase its slight loss from the day before and return to a record. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 177 points, or 0.6%, at 30,144, as of 2:34 p.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.4% higher.
The gains were broad, with about 80% of the companies in the S&P 500 moving higher. Technology, energy and industrial companies drove a big share of the gains, outweighing losses in utilities stocks and companies that rely on consumer spending.
Hopes remain deeply rooted on Wall Street that one or more coronavirus vaccines are coming to rescue the global economy next year. But efforts to contain a surge in new virus cases has stoked worries about more economic pain for companies and consumers.
That’s why Friday’s much weaker-than-expected jobs report perversely helped lift stocks. Investors are betting the report may be bad enough to help kick Congress out of its paralysis and deliver more support for the economy.
“In a twist of irony, the bad jobs number is positive for markets today,” said Keith Buchanan, portfolio manager at Globalt Investments. “The market is telling us today that if the labor market continues to show slowing momentum, it’s much more likely the powers that be in D.C. agree to something that’s material.”
The initial reaction in financial markets to November’s disappointing jobs report was to fall. Treasury yields sank, and U.S. stock futures wobbled after the data showed employers added just 245,000 jobs last month, half of what economists were expecting. It marked a sharp step down from October’s gain of 610,000 and was the fifth straight month of slowing growth.
Economists called the numbers disappointing and evidence that the worsening pandemic will likely destroy more jobs and income for the economy in the coming months, which are shaping up to be a bleak winter.
But markets quickly firmed amid hopes that the dour data could spur some action from Congress, which has dithered for months after much of its last round of financial support for the economy expired during the summer.
“Overall, today’s report is beckoning lawmakers to act on additional fiscal stimulus measures in order to bridge the output gap in the economy until a vaccine is deployed, and the longer they hold out the wider the gap may become,” said Charlie Ripley, senior investment strategist for Allianz Investment Management.
Democrats and Republicans have been making on-and-off progress on talks for another round of support for the economy, including aid for laid-off workers and industries hit hard by the pandemic. Momentum has seemed to swing back to “on” this week after Democrats signaled willingness to accept a smaller package than they were earlier demanding.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke on the phone about a possible deal on Thursday, and lawmakers from both parties have been voicing support for a bipartisan deal. The glimmers of progress follow months of cajoling and pleading by economists and investors, who say such aid is essential. Many obstacles remain, though.
The hope in markets is that financial support from Washington could help carry the economy through a dark winter. Surging coronavirus counts, hospitalizations and deaths are pushing governments around the world to bring back varying degrees of restrictions on businesses. They’re also scaring consumers away from stores, restaurants and other normal economic activity.
Hopefully, the economy will be able to stand more on its next year after one or more COVID-19 vaccines help start a slow return to more normal conditions.
Such hopes have helped stocks muscle higher since early November, though the momentum has slowed a bit recently as the pandemic accelerates at a troubling rate. The S&P 500 is on pace to close this week with a 1.5% gain, following up on November’s 10.8% surge.
Stocks that would benefit most from a reopening, healing economy have been clawing back some of their steep plummets from earlier in the year, such as airlines and other travel-related companies. Stocks of smaller companies have also recently helped lead the market after earlier lagging. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks was up 1.7% in Friday trading, more than double the gain for the big stocks in the S&P 500.
Stocks of energy companies were some of Friday’s best performers, as oil prices climb further out of the hole they plunged into during the spring following a collapse in demand. Diamondback Energy jumped 12.1%, and Occidental Petroleum gained 11.3% for two of the biggest gains in the S&P 500. Both stocks remain down by about 50% for the year, though.
In European stock markets, the German DAX was up 0.3%, while the French CAC 40 rose 0.6%. The FTSE 100 in London was up 0.9%.
In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 slipped 0.2%, but other markets were stronger. South Korea’s Kospi gained 1.3%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.4% and stocks in Shanghai added 0.1%.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury shook off an initial stumble following the release of the jobs report to rise to 0.97%, up from 0.91% late Thursday.
AP Business Writer Joe McDonald contributed.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.