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Stellar jobs data push US stocks to new records

·4-min read
The US economy added a better-than-expected 531,000 jobs last month (AFP/JOE RAEDLE)

Blockbuster job creation helped push US stocks to new records on Friday, with an added boost from news of Pfizer's new Covid-19 treatment.

The US economy added a better-than-expected 531,000 jobs last month as a wide range of industries took on workers, and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.6 percent, Labor Department data showed.

The better-than-expected result indicated hiring is resurging as Covid-19 infections decline, and job gains in August and September were 235,000 stronger than originally reported.

"When you add in the big upward revisions to August and September's job numbers, this is a blockbuster," said Jay Mawji, managing director of the global liquidity provider IX Prime.

"With America's resurgent economy piling on well over half a million new jobs in October alone, we're firmly in boom territory."

The jobs report sent all three main indices on Wall Street to new record highs, with the broad-based S&P 500 advancing 0.4 percent for a two percent gain for the week.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq smashed through the 16,000 point level for the first time during the session, before closing just shy of that threshold.

European stocks also ended the week firmly higher, with the benchmark Paris CAC 40 index breaching the 7,000-point for the first time, while Frankfurt's DAX was in striking distance of an all-time high.

London stocks rose 0.3 percent, aided by the weak pound a day after the Bank of England unexpectedly held UK interest rates.

The sliding pound boosts the share prices of London-listed multinationals earning in dollars.

US equities also were cheered by Pfizer's announcement that a clinical trial of its pill to treat Covid-19 showed an 89 percent reduction in chances of hospitalization or death among adult patients at high risk of progressing to severe illness.

"News like this... helps investors from a psychological standpoint, instilling confidence in the prospect of potentially soon putting the pandemic behind us," said Briefing.com.

Among individual companies, Pfizer surged 10.9 percent, while the news weighed on Merck, which unveiled its own therapeutic in October, and Moderna, the maker of a leading coronavirus vaccine.

- Central bank uncertainty -

Global equities rose this week after the Federal Reserve finally announced its plan for tapering its vast bond-buying program, which has provided crucial support since it was put in place at the start of the pandemic.

But the Fed signaled that it is in no hurry to raise interest rates, which also helped boost stocks.

The BoE's decision not to lift rates as expected shocked traders after recent hints by central bank chief Andrew Bailey that officials were ready to move.

While the BoE signaled an increase was still in the cards in the coming months, there were questions about how quickly they would tighten policy.

Many economists think the Fed will have to move rates more aggressively next year once it finishes tapering, especially if global supply snags keep prices and wages high.

But bond yields, which indicate future trajectory of interest rates, sank and raised concerns about further uncertainty.

Oil climbed after OPEC and other major producers stuck to their plan to modestly lift output despite surging demand.

- Key figures around 2100 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 0.8 percent at 36,400.90 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.4 percent at 4,697.53 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.2 percent at 15,971.59 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,303.96 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: UP 0.2 percent at 16,054.36 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.8 percent at 7,040.79 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.6 percent at 4,357.45 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.6 percent at 25,611.57 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.4 percent at 24,870.51 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 1.0 percent at 3,491.57 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1566 from $1.1554 at 2100 GMT Thursday

Pound/dollar: FLAT at 1.3495

Euro/pound: UP at 85.67 pence from 85.59 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 113.40 from 113.76 yen

Brent North Sea crude: UP 2.3 percent at $82.37 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 2.9 percent at $81.17 per barrel

burs-spm/bp/hs/cs

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