Wall St rallies to close out soft week after jobs report

Traders work on the floor of the NYSE in New York

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks closed higher on Friday in volatile trade to snap a four-session losing streak as investors wrestled with a mixed jobs report and comments from Federal Reserve officials on the pace of interest rate hikes.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq each rose as much as 2% in the early stages of trading while the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed as much as 1.9% on the heels of the closely watched labor market report, before paring gains and briefly falling into negative territory. The report showed an uptick in the unemployment rate in October, indicating some signs of slack may finally be starting to emerge in the job market and give the Fed room to downsize its rate hikes beginning in December.

But the data also showed average hourly earnings rose slightly more than expected, as did job growth, pointing to a labor market that largely remains on firm footing.

GRAPHIC: Nonfarm payrolls https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-STOCKS/gdpzqrgwevw/nfpr.png

Labor market data has been a primary focus for markets as the Fed has repeatedly stated it is looking for some cooling before considering a pause in hikes. Hawkish comments from Fed Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday increased worries the central bank could keep boosting interest rates for longer than previously expected and put further pressure on stocks.

"This was not a report that shows the rate hikes are starting to take hold," said Shawn Cruz, head trading strategist at TD Ameritrade in Chicago.

"You could maybe justify some of this move as this selling got a little overdone after what Powell said at the meeting, so maybe you already had the sellers flushed out."

On Friday, Fed officials echoed Powell's comments about potentially decreasing the size of rate hikes in the future, but needing to continue to raise rates for a longer period of time and potentially above the 4.6% level the central bank penciled in at its September meeting.

Equities got a boost late in the session after Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said it was possible for the Fed to be "thinking" about pausing even if it's a year from now.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 401.97 points, or 1.26%, to 32,403.22, the S&P 500 gained 50.66 points, or 1.36%, to 3,770.55 and the Nasdaq Composite added 132.31 points, or 1.28%, to 10,475.25.

For the week, the Dow fell 1.39% to snap a four-week winning streak, the S&P dropped 3.34% and the Nasdaq slid 5.65% for its biggest weekly percentage decline since January.

The non-farm payrolls report comes after a conflicting set of data this week that pointed to a slowdown in certain parts of the economy but also underscored the resilience of the U.S. labor market despite aggressive rate hikes to tame inflation.

Traders' expectations of a 75 basis point rate hike in December had briefly jumped after the jobs report but were now pricing in about a 62% chance of a 50 basis point hike, according to CME's FedWatch Tool.

Market focus will now turn to a key consumer inflation reading due next week as well as the U.S. midterm elections on Nov. 8, where control of Congress is at stake.

Meanwhile, hopes of an easing in China's tough COVID-19 curbs supported some areas of the market, with U.S.-listed shares of Chinese companies including Alibaba, which finished up 7.05% and JD.com, up 9.74%.

Those hopes also helped boost prices of commodities such as copper, which in turn lifted the materials sector 3.41% as the best performing of the 11 major S&P sectors.

Starbucks Corp jumped 8.48% after it topped Wall Street estimates for quarterly comparable sales and profit, while DoorDash Inc's revenue beat boosted the food delivery firm's shares by 8.32%.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 13.31 billion shares, compared with the 11.74 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.56-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.41-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 18 new 52-week highs and 27 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 81 new highs and 278 new lows.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak, editing by Deepa Babington)