Big day for Fed speakers: Yellen, Fischer and more
U.S. stocks struggled to maintain gains, flipping in and out of negative territory Friday, as investors weighed stronger-than-expected April employment report against uncertainty of French presidential election outcome this weekend.
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The main indexes were on track for modest weekly gains, however.
The S&P 500 index was up 2 points, or 0.1%, to 2,391, with nine of the 11 main sectors trading in positive territory. Financials, health-care and technology stocks edged lower, energy shares rallied following a rebound in oil prices.
"The jobs reports was indeed solid, but investors are cautious going into the weekend when the French go to polls. Perhaps, because by now people do not have a lot of faith in polls," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded 7 points, or less than 0.1%, lower at 20,945, weighed down by steep losses in shares of IBM, which plunged 2.5% following news that Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway sold a third of its stake in the company.
Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite Index was flat at 6,076.
"This jobs report indicates that the job market remains healthy, underlining that the economy continues to grow at a solid, but not spectacular rate," said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones.
Investors in energy companies were skittish as oil priced remained volatile. Losses for the energy sector weighed on stocks Thursday, as U.S. crude and Brent oil prices both crashed 4.8% due to global supply worries. On Friday, West Texas Intermediate crude rebounded, trading up 1.5% at $46.19 a barrel, pulling back from a 3% dive in Asian trading.
The next clue to the direction of oil prices could come from Baker Hughes (BHI), which will report on the number of active U.S. rigs drilling for oil later on Friday. The count has risen for 15 weeks in a row, adding to concerns over the global oil glut.
Investors will keep a close eye on the euro this weekend as the French head to the polls on Sunday to participate in the final round of the country's presidential election, where centrist Emmanuel Macron will face off against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who has said she would pull the country from out of the European Union, a potentially destabilizing move for markets.
However, Macron is expected to win the election handily, according to recent polls; so a surprise outcome would rattle investors.
Read:Brace for market mayhem if Le Pen unexpectedly wins French presidency (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/brace-for-market-mayhem-if-le-pen-unexpectedly-wins-french-presidency-2017-05-04)
Also read:OPEC faces high-stakes decision as oil wavers around 5-month low (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/opec-faces-high-stakes-decision-as-oil-drops-to-5-month-low-2017-05-04)
Economy in focus: Hiring rebounded from a wobbly showing in March, offering fresh evidence (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-creates-211000-jobs-in-april-as-hiring-rebounds-2017-03-10) the U.S. economy is still growing at healthy clip and paving the way for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates soon.
The headline number, as well as the 4.4% unemployment rate were above expectations. Wages grew also, but at a slower pace than late last year.
Fed speakers: Six Federal Reserve officials are scheduled to speak on Friday, starting with Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer at the Hoover Institution monetary policy conference at Stanford University at 11:30 a.m. Eastern. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren and St. Louis Fed President James Bullard are expected to take part in a panel discussion at the conference at 1:30 p.m. Eastern.
Read:Which Fed members to watch in a clutch of appearances on Friday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fed-returns-to-pulpit-with-six-speeches-friday-2017-05-04)
San Francisco Fed President John Williams is lined up to speak at a New York conference on the overhaul of housing finance at 12:45 p.m. Eastern. Finally, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen is set to talk about "125 years of women's participation in the economy" at Brown University at 1:30 p.m. Eastern.
Stock movers: Shake Shack Inc.(SHAK) shares surged 7% even as the burger chain reported falling same-restaurant sales late Thursday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/shake-shack-shares-plunge-as-company-sales-growth-slackens-2017-05-04).
Activision Blizzard Inc.(ATVI) shares rose 1.7% after the videogame developer's earnings beat forecasts, but reported fewer users (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/activision-blizzard-beats-quarterly-expectations-but-reports-fewer-users-2017-05-04).
Shares of Zynga Inc.(ZNGA) jumped 5.6% after earnings from the social-gaming company beat forecasts (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/zynga-jumps-7-after-earnings-beat-2017-05-04).
International Business Machines Corp.(IBM) shares fell 2.3%. Berkshire Hathaway's chief executive officer Warren Buffett told CNBC in an interview Thursday that his company has sold about one-third of its stake (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/warren-buffett-tells-cnbc-hes-dumped-a-third-of-stake-in-ibm-2017-05-04) in the computing giant, owing to a loss of confidence in the group.
Berkshire (BRKA) (BRKA) is due to report after the close. Buffett will meet investors and answer questions at the conglomerate's annual shareholder meeting on Saturday. Shares were little changed.
Other markets: Chinese stocks finished 0.7% lower on Friday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/chinese-stocks-drop-on-falling-commodity-prices-2017-05-04), pressured by worries the country's crackdown on speculators and borrowing could weigh on demand for metals. The most actively traded iron-ore futures contract opened sharply lower on the Dalian Commodity Exchange, after tumbling by the 8% daily limit on Thursday.
European stocks fell from a 21-month high ahead (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-fall-from-21-month-high-ahead-of-us-jobs-french-election-2017-05-05)as investors waited for U.S. jobs data and the French presidential election, which will be decided on Sunday. Investors remain hopeful that centrist Emmanuel Macron (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/emmanuel-macron-5-things-to-know-about-the-man-poised-to-be-frances-president-2017-04-24) will beat far-right Marine Le Pen (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/5-things-you-dont-know-about-marine-le-penfrances-trump-2017-05-04) in that hotly contested race.
And:European equities a buy, but watch for this Trump risk: Eaton Vance (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-equities-a-buy-but-trump-policy-inaction-a-risk-eaton-vance-2017-05-03)
Gold gave up earlier gains to trade flat at $1,217 an ounce, while the ICE Dollar Index was unchanged at 98.79 after the jobs report. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was flat at 2.35%.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 05, 2017 10:45 ET (14:45 GMT)