S&P 500 ends higher as jobs data fuels rate-hike optimism

By Shristi Achar A and Noel Randewich

(Reuters) – The S&P 500 ended higher on Friday after a jump in unemployment cemented expectations of a pause in interest rate hikes this month, while shares of streaming firms tumbled due to a rate dispute between Disney and Charter Communications.

The Labor Department’s report showed the August unemployment rate rose to 3.8% while wage growth slowed. Nonfarm payrolls rose more than expected, though data for July was revised lower to 157,000 job additions.

The data added to recent macroeconomic evidence that the Federal Reserve is winning its battle against inflation, and it cemented expectations the central bank is near the end of its interest rate hiking cycle.

“The data makes the case for the Fed becoming more dovish as we head into the fall. If the end of tightening comes sooner than later, that could lead to a substantial rally in stocks,” said Keith Buchanan, a portfolio manager at GLOBALT Investments in Atlanta.

Interest rate futures suggest traders see a 93% chance the Fed will keep interest rates unchanged at its meeting later this month, according to CME’s FedWatch tool.

Walt Disney dropped 2.4% and Charter Communications fell 3.6% after the companies traded salvos over an unresolved distribution agreement after several channels, including ESPN, went dark on Thursday for customers of Charter’s Spectrum cable service.

Other streaming companies also fell, with Warner Bros Discovery slumping 12%, Paramount Global losing 9.5% and Fox Corp down nearly 6%.

The most traded stock in the S&P 500 was Tesla Inc, with $32.6 billion worth of shares exchanged during the session. The shares declined 5% after the EV maker cut prices for its Model S and Model X vehicles in the U.S.

Unofficially, the S&P 500 climbed 0.18% to end at 4,515.77 points.

The Nasdaq declined 0.02% to 14,031.82 points, while Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.33% to 34,837.71 points.

Of the 11 S&P 500 sector indexes, six rose, led by energy, up 2.05%, followed by a 1.01% gain in materials.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was relatively light, with 8.9 billion shares traded, compared to an average of 10.4 billion shares over the previous 20 sessions.

For the week, the S&P 500 rose 2.50%, the Dow added 1.43% and the Nasdaq climbed 3.25%.

The U.S. stock market will remain closed on Monday for the Labor Day holiday.

Broadcom fell 5.5% after the chipmaker projected current-quarter revenue below expectations, while Dell Technologies surged 21% after the personal computer maker raised its annual forecasts for revenue and profit.

Lululemon Athletica gained 6% after the yogawear maker lifted its annual profit and revenue forecasts for a second time.

Walgreens Boots Alliance fell 7.4% after the pharmacy chain said CEO Rosalind Brewer had stepped down.

Advancing issues outnumbered falling ones within the S&P 500 by a 2.1-to-one ratio.

The S&P 500 posted 28 new highs and 20 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 84 new highs and 90 new lows.

(Reporting by Shristi Achar A and Amruta Khandekar in Bengaluru, and by Noel Randewich in Oakland, California; Additional reporting by Sruthi Shankar; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Richard Chang)