Wall Street Rises as Jobs Data Shows Strength in Economy

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks were pushed higher on Friday by a stronger-than-expected jobs data for November, which indicated improving economic fundamentals at the world’s largest economy in the run up to a near certain interest rate hike next week.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by 228,000 jobs last month amid broad gains in hiring as the distortions from the recent hurricanes faded. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls rising by 200,000 jobs last month.

Average hourly earnings rose 0.2 percent in November after dipping 0.1 percent the prior month, but was still below the estimated 0.3 percent.

“The headline number of 228,000 new jobs was above consensus estimates, but wage growth still remains sluggish,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.

“The report is constructive for the equity market — job growth coupled with still low inflation is a positive underpinning for markets.”

At 10:58 a.m. ET (1558 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 60.71 points, or 0.25 percent, at 24,272.19, the S&P 500 was up 10.52 points, or 0.40 percent, at 2,647.5 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 46.05 points, or 0.68 percent, at 6,858.89.

“Investors are also taking comfort from the lack of surprise from Washington with the House and the Senate passing resolutions. So we won’t experience a government shut down,” said Eric Wiegand, senior portfolio manager at U.S. Bank’s Private Client Reserve unit.

Gains in equities were also helped by an overnight divorce deal between Britain and the European Union that paved the way for arduous talks on future trade ties.

Technology stocks topped the S&P gainers, while consumer staples were at the bottom.

Microsoft, Apple and Amazon were the top boosts to the S&P and the Nasdaq, while Boeing and United Health drove up the Dow.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals rose 5.6 percent and was the biggest S&P gainer, after a report said hedge fund Elliott Management wanted the company to take steps to boost its stock price, including by exploring a sale.

Shares of American Outdoor Brands slumped 13 percent after the Smith & Wesson fire arms maker provided disappointing earnings forecast. Shares of Sturm Ruger also slipped 7.6 percent.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,636 to 1,115. On the Nasdaq, 1,686 issues rose and 1,041 fell.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Rama Venkat Raman in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak in New York; Editing by Arun Koyyur)