The Dow Jones industrial average flew tantalizingly close to the 20,000 mark Friday despite a shaky start. The federal government’s December jobs report showed that wages jumped by the largest amount in seven years, though hiring was a bit weaker than expected. Technology companies made the biggest gains.
The Dow started the day with modest losses and then began climbing about noon. Just before 1 p.m. on Wall Street, it was 19,999.63, but fell back during the rest of the afternoon.
ON WALL STREET: At the close, the Dow was up 64.5, points, about 0.3 percent, at 19,963.8. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added nearly 8 points, about 0.4 percent, to nearly 2,277. The Nasdaq was up nearly 33.1 points, about 0.6 percent, at 5,521.1.
BONDS PRICES: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.42 percent from 2.35 percent. Higher bond yields mean higher interest rates, which allow banks to make more money on lending. Banks did better than the rest of the market Friday afternoon. U.S. Bancorp added 42 cents to $51.39. Among other financial firms, Goldman Sachs jumped $4.07, or 1.7 percent, to $245.39.
OIL PRICES: As markets closed, benchmark U.S. crude was off 5 cents at $53.71 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London on the Intercontinental Exchange Europe, Brent crude, which is used to price oil sold internationally, was down 8 cents at $56.81 a barrel. Exxon Mobil Corp. fell 5 cents to close at $88.50 a share.
JOBS: U.S. employers added 156,000 jobs in December, capping a year of slower but solid hiring and providing the last major snapshot of the economy President-elect Donald Trump will inherit from President Barack Obama. Friday’s report from the Labor Department portrayed a job market that remains durable 7½ years after the recovery from the Great Recession began. Though the unemployment rate rose to 4.7 percent from a nine-year low of 4.6 percent, it did so for an encouraging reason: More people began looking for work. Because not all of them found jobs immediately, more people were counted as unemployed in December.
AND SALARIES: Hourly pay jumped 2.9 percent from a year earlier, the sharpest increase in more than seven years. That is a positive sign that the low unemployment rate is forcing some businesses to offer higher wages to attract and keep workers. Sluggish growth in Americans’ paychecks has been a long-standing weak spot in the economic recovery.
ANALYST’S OPINION: It took a while for investors to decide how they felt about the report. But analyst Sam Stovall, a U.S. equity strategist for S&P Capital IQ, said there was good news for most industries. He said workers are being paid more, but the report won’t push the Federal Reserve to rapidly raise interest rates to stave off inflation. “Consumers are earning a bit more and as a result can spend more,” he said. “But . . . people are not too worried the Fed will have to slam on the brakes.”