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Dow and S&P 500 post small gains as stocks shake off an early dip

New York Stock Exchange
The S&P 500 ended the week at its highest level in five weeks.
(Richard Drew / Associated Press)

Major U.S. stock indexes finished little changed Friday after a day of mostly quiet trading capped the Standard & Poor’s 500 index’s second straight weekly gain.

The market shook off an early stumble thanks largely to gains in healthcare stocks, retailers and makers of consumer products. Technology, communications and utilities stocks fell, as did bond yields and gold prices.

Facebook dropped 1.8% after New York’s attorney general announced an antitrust investigation into the company.

Traders had a muted reaction to new data showing that U.S. employers added fewer jobs in August than expected. The report also indicated more people entered the workforce last month, wages rose more than expected and the unemployment rate remained near the lowest level in five decades.

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The jobs report was the latest in a mixed batch of economic data that investors scrutinized this week in search of clues about how the economy is weathering the U.S.-China trade war. Investors have been encouraged this week by news that envoys from Washington and Beijing plan to begin another round of trade talks next month.

“It’s been a pretty bullish week and I’m a bit surprised the market has gone as far as it has,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab. “I don’t think the trade tariffs issue is going to get resolved anytime soon, and I don’t see that we’re a whole lot further along right now than where we were a month ago, when the market was significantly lower than it is.”

The S&P 500 inched up 2.71 points, or 0.1%, to 2,978.71. The benchmark index gained 1.8% for the week.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 69.31 points, or 0.3%, to 26,797.46. The Nasdaq wobbled much of the day, ending with a loss of 13.75 points, or 0.2%, to 8,103.07. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 5.58 points, or 0.4%, to 1,505.17.

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Markets have been turbulent in recent weeks as worries about the trade war have waxed and waned. Stocks slid Tuesday after expanded tariffs between Washington and Beijing kicked in and new data indicated that U.S. manufacturing contracted in August for the first time in three years.

But more encouraging economic reports on hiring by private companies and productivity, in addition to the planned resumption of trade negotiations, put investors in a buying mood that culminated in a strong market rally Thursday. The S&P 500 ended the week at its highest level in five weeks and just 1.6% below its record high, set July 26.

The market got a modest bounce Friday after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank is not expecting a U.S. or global recession. In remarks at a conference in Switzerland, Powell said the Fed is monitoring a number of uncertainties, including trade conflicts, and will “act as appropriate to sustain the expansion.”

Economists said Friday’s jobs report did little to change their forecasts for the Fed to cut interest rates at its meeting in two weeks. Treasury yields slipped after the report, and traders remain nearly certain the Fed will cut short-term rates by a quarter of a percentage point.

Major indexes in Europe rose Friday. Earlier in the day, China’s central bank cut a key interest rate, which helped push up Asian markets.

Benchmark crude oil rose 22 cents to settle at $56.52 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, rose 59 cents to close at $61.54 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to $1.57 a gallon. Heating oil climbed 1 cent to $1.90 a gallon. Natural gas rose 6 cents to $2.50 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold fell $9.20 to $1,506.20 an ounce. Silver fell 69 cents to $17.97 an ounce. Copper was unchanged at $2.62 a pound.


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