Dow falls more than 300 as jobs data stoke interest rate concern

By StocksReuters

Skepticism about the market optimism

Guggenheim Partners Global CIO Scott Minerd on the outlook for the economy, stocks and the U.S. dollar.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 300 points at the open on Friday on disappointing earnings reports from blue-chip companies and as a robust U.S. jobs report boosted bond yields and bolstered expectations that the pace of interest-rate hikes could pick up.

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All 30 components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average were lower and ten of the 11 major S&P sectors fell, led by the energy index's 1.83 percent decline.

A Labor Department report showed nonfarm payrolls increased by 200,000 jobs in January, above the 180,000 rise expected by economists surveyed by Reuters. The unemployment rate stayed unchanged at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.

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Average hourly earnings rose 0.3 percent, building on December's solid 0.4 percent gain. That boosted the year-on-year increase in average hourly earnings to 2.9 percent, the largest rise since June 2009.

After the payrolls data, traders boosted bets that the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates three times this year, with a hike next month seen as a near certainty. But fast-rising wages could prompt more aggressive action to keep a lid on inflation pressure.

"The market had coalesced around expectations for three rate hikes this year," said Michael Antonelli, managing director at institutional sales trading at Robert W. Baird.

"Slightly hawkish comments and wage hikes will make it four. What is good for the average American worker ends up being negative for stocks because it increases the odds of further rate hikes."

At 11: 20 a.m. ET, the Dow was down 303.89 points to 25,882.82

Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields extended their rise after the payrolls data and jumped to more than 2.818 percent, its highest level since early 2014.

Adding to the pressure were disappointing earnings reports from major companies.

Shares of oil majors Exxon and Chevron were down 4.1 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively, after they both posted lower-than-expected quarterly profits.

Google-parent Alphabet fell 4.5 percent after the company's quarterly profit missed analysts' estimates.

Apple shares initially struggled for direction before falling 1.4 percent as investors gave more credence to the company's muted forecast than strong iPhone prices and cash plans.

One bright spot was Amazon.com, which rose 6 percent after the online retailer reported a record profit of near $2 billion, helped by a rise in sales and tax law changes.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 2,404 to 298. On the Nasdaq, 1,939 issues fell and 481 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed 12 new 52-week highs and 16 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 20 new highs and 32 new lows. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)

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