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Markets

Slowing job growth weighs on Wall St as focus turns to stimulus

  • US economy added 1.76 mln jobs in July – report.
  • Congress to continue talks on coronavirus relief bill.
  • Trump moves to ban WeChat, TikTok, amps up friction with Beijing.
  • Indexes off: Dow 0.34%, S&P 0.34%, Nasdaq 1.16%.
Published August 7, 2020

Wall Street's main indexes fell on Friday as data showed a sharp slowdown in US employment growth, with investors now looking for signs of another fiscal stimulus bill to revive the economy from a pandemic-driven recession.

With the benchmark S&P 500 index now about 1% below its record high, defensive sectors including utilities and real estate were among the gainers. Tech-related stocks, which have fueled a Wall Street rally since March, posted the biggest declines.

The Labor Department's closely watched report showed nonfarm payrolls increased 1.76 million in July, much lower than the record 4.8 million in June.

However, the figure still topped economists' expectations and analysts said it could take the pressure off Congress to agree on a relief bill after weeks of wrangling. Differences have partly centered around continuing an extra $600-per-week in unemployment benefits.

"We seem to be in a quagmire to get the new stimulus out of Washington right now," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

"We were a bit spoiled in the early rounds of fiscal policy, getting them out as rapidly as we did, and now we're settling back into Washington operating the way that we're used to and that gets frustrating for markets."

Top Democratic congressional leaders and White House officials said they would continue negotiations on Friday.

At 1:11 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 94.42 points, or 0.34%, at 27,292.56, the S&P 500 was down 11.35 points, or 0.34%, at 3,337.81, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 128.54 points, or 1.16%, at 10,979.53.

With the second-quarter corporate earnings season largely over, about 82% of S&P 500 companies that have reported so far have beaten dramatically lowered estimates, with earnings on average coming in 22.5% above expectations, the highest on record.

T-Mobile US Inc jumped 6.6% as it added more-than-expected monthly phone subscribers and said it had overtaken rival AT&T Inc as the second-largest US wireless provider. The stock was the biggest gainer on the S&P communication services index.

Uber fell 5.7% as demand for its ride-hailing trips only marginally recovered from pandemic rock-bottom in the second quarter, even as its food-delivery segment saw double the orders.

Meanwhile, Trump late on Thursday unveiled sweeping bans on US transactions with the Chinese owners of messaging app WeChat and video-sharing app TikTok. In response, China said the companies complied with US laws and warned Washington would have to "bear the consequences" of its action.

New York-listed Tencent Music Entertainment Group, which was spun off from WeChat-owner Tencent Holdings Ltd in 2018, fell 3.4%, while Facebook Inc jumped 2.5%.

Microsoft Corp, which is seeking to buy TikTok's US operations, was down 1.9%. US-listed Chinese stocks such as Baidu Inc, Alibaba Group Holding and JD.com Inc fell between 2.1% and 5.8%.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 1.04-to-1 on the NYSE and 1.15-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 31 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 108 new highs and six new lows.

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