S&P ends up, led by defensive stocks; earnings in play
The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq ended modestly higher on Friday, led by gains in defensive names after a weaker-than-expected payrolls report raised new questions about both the strength of the economy and the aggressiveness of Federal Reserve stimulus.
For the week, the S&P 500 rose 0.6 percent, while the Nasdaq climbed 1 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average finished the week down 0.2 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 7.71 points or 0.05 percent, to end at 16,437.05. The S&P 500 gained 4.24 points or 0.23 percent, to finish at 1,842.37. The Nasdaq Composite added 18.471 points or 0.44 percent, to close at 4,174.665.
US Labor Department data showed only 74,000 workers were hired last month, the smallest increase since January 2011, and significantly below the 196,000 that economists had expected.
Only 5 percent of S&P 500 components have reported earnings so far, with half of them posting better-than-expected profits and 62.5 percent topping revenue forecasts. Historically, 63 percent beat profit estimates, while 61 percent beat on revenue.
Nasdaq shares fell 0.8 percent to $39.92.
About 6.5 billion shares traded on US exchanges, slightly above the 6.4 billion average so far this month, according to data from BATS Global Markets.
Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the New York Stock Exchange by a ratio of about 3 to 1. On the Nasdaq, about 15 stocks rose for every 11 that fell.
Treasury bond yields fell, with the 10-year benchmark note yield dipping below 2.90 percent.
The dollar gave up gains following the jobs report, with the euro up 0.15 percent to $1.3627, and the dollar was down against the yen at 104.64.
Gold, which last week saw its best week since October, drifted around $1,240 an ounce, while copper, facing a second successive weekly fall, rose 1.1 percent to $7,296.00 a tonne.
Crude futures bounced to $92.67 a barrel after hitting an eight-month trough at $91.24 overnight. Brent crude edged up 45 cents to $106.84 per barrel.
Asian markets had remained soggy overnight after Chinese trade data proved to be a mixed bag. While China's exports grew a little less than expected at 4.3 percent in December from a year earlier, imports easily outpaced forecasts with an increase of 8.3 percent.
The jump in imports could point to stronger domestic demand and a rebalancing away from a reliance on exports to fuel growth, a sea change long desired by policymakers everywhere.
In contrast to the Fed, the European Central Bank keeps holding out the prospect of yet more stimulus in the euro zone.
On Thursday, ECB President Mario Draghi underlined his determination to act should deflation become a real risk or rising money rates threaten a fragile recovery.
Renewed upward pressure on the latter was avoided on Friday as despite an enforced year-end break, euro zone banks posted back just 2.6 billion euros of their ultra-cheap ECB LTRO loans, versus 20 billion last time around.
Meanwhile, Euro zone periphery shares sustained their blistering rally.