NEW YORK: US stocks surged on Friday, with the benchmark S&P 500 scaling a fresh record, as investors cheered robust quarterly reports from Meta Platforms and, while a strong jobs report kept the upbeat sentiment in check.

US job growth accelerated in January and wages increased by the most in nearly two years, signs of persistent labor market strength that could make it difficult for the Federal Reserve to start cutting rates in May as currently envisaged by financial markets.

“The strong jobs report indicates that demand in the labor market is higher than expected,” said Richard Flynn, managing director at Charles Schwab UK.

“While lower interest rates would surely be welcomed, it is becoming increasingly clear that markets and the economy are coping well with the high rate environment, so investors are perhaps feeling that the need for monetary policy to ease is less urgent.”

Boosting sentiment, Meta surged 21.5% to hit a record high and aided a 4.6% surge in the S&P 500 communication services sector after issuing its first dividend days ahead of Facebook’s 20th anniversary, along with a revenue and profit beat on robust advertising sales in the holiday shopping period.

Other social media firms Snap and Pinterest rose 6.6% and 4.9%, respectively. jumped 8.0% following a fourth-quarter revenue beat as new generative AI features in cloud and ecommerce businesses spurred robust growth during the critical holiday period.

Weighing on the blue-chip Dow, Apple lost 0.2% after forecasting a drop in iPhone sales and targeting overall revenue $6 billion below expectations, as its China business took a hit.

Earnings from the tech trio, part of the group of megacap stocks popularly called the “Magnificent 7”, likely offset some concerns over their rich valuations and outsized weighting in the S&P 500, after Alphabet and Microsoft’s disappointing AI cost projections and Tesla’s growth warning.

In the previous session, Wall Street rebounded from a sell-off on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve quashed lingering bets that interest-rate cuts could begin as early as March.

Meanwhile, New York Community Bancorp plunged 6.3%, its third-day in losses following disappointing earnings that sparked worries on the lenders’ exposure to the troubled commercial real estate sector. The KBW Regional banking index was last flat after sliding nearly 9% in past three days.

The real estate sector led sectoral declines with a 2.1% fall, while Russell 2000 small-caps index declined 1.0%.

At 12:22 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 24.95 points, or 0.06%, at 38,544.79, the S&P 500 was up 45.83 points, or 0.93%, at 4,952.02, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 244.30 points, or 1.59%, at 15,605.94.

Cigna rose 5.8% as the health insurer raised its annual profit forecast.

Chipmaker Microchip Technology dropped 2.1% after forecasting fourth-quarter net sales below estimates, while footwear maker Skechers USA lost 8.3% after a downbeat 2024 forecast.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 2.69-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 2.14-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 52 new 52-week highs and four new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 58 new highs and 115 new lows.


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