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US stocks edge lower as traders weigh jobs report

US job growth blew past estimates in May (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS)
US job growth blew past estimates in May (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS)

Wall Street stocks seesawed Friday as a hotter-than-expected US jobs report soothed worries about the economy but fueled concerns that the Federal Reserve would keep interest rates higher for longer.

New York's three main indexes finished modestly lower in a muted finale to the week that left both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq near all-time highs struck two days earlier.

Friday's losses are "not a big deal because on a weekly basis we are still near the highs of the week, and that in itself is bullish," said Adam Sarhan of 50 Park Investments.

Official data showed the world's biggest economy added 272,000 jobs last month, well above the 185,000 expected by some analysts, and up from 165,000 in April.

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"The payrolls figure was a shock to the market," said Kathleen Brooks, research director at trading platform XTB.

The US central bank has held rates at a 23-year high in recent months in hopes of easing demand to rein in inflation sustainably.

With the economy still adding more jobs than anticipated, analysts expect the Fed to hold off rate cuts for a while longer.

While the report raised concerns about rates, it also eased fears about the health of the US economy after a survey earlier this week showed US manufacturing contracted for a second straight month in May.

"The May jobs report is sort of a mixed bag for investors," said Bret Kenwell, US investment analyst at the eToro trading platform.

"On the one hand, it calms some worries that the US is hurling toward some sort of economic cliff, as we have seen soft economic data over the last month," he said.

"On the other hand, this report likely pushes back expectations of a Fed rate cut, even as we're seeing other G7 central banks cutting rates."

The Canadian central bank became the first among peers in the Group of Seven to cut rates on Wednesday, and the European Central Bank followed suit on Thursday, reducing rates for the first time since 2019.

But the ECB said the path for future cuts was uncertain as inflation could remain above its two-percent target well into next year.

Europe's main stock markets finished in the red on Friday.

All eyes will now turn to the Fed's monetary policy meeting next Tuesday and Wednesday.

While the Fed is not expected to make a decision on rates, investors will watch for any signal about its "dot plot", or roadmap, for interest rates.

Its previous guidance in March was for three cuts this year, but many are preparing for that to be whittled down in light of recent economic data.

"We believe that equities will struggle into next week's" Fed meeting, Brooks said.

- Key figures around 2020 GMT -

New York - Dow Jones: DOWN 0.2 percent at 38,798.99 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.1 percent at 5,346.99 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN 0.2 percent at 17,133.13 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.5 percent at 8,245.37 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.5 percent at 8,001.80 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: DOWN 0.5 percent at 18,557.27 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.4 percent at 5,051.31 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 38,683.93 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.6 percent at 18,366.95 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 3,051.28 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0805 from $1.0890 on Thursday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2722 from $1.2791

Dollar/yen: UP at 156.71 yen from 155.61 yen

Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.91 from 85.14 pence

Brent North Sea Crude: DOWN 0.3 percent at $79.62 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at $75.53 per barrel

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