U.S. stocks declined, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average posting its longest slide since 2011, amid declines in commodity producers while data showed continued progress in the labor market.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.3 percent to 2,077.76 at 4 p.m. in New York, closing above its average price during the past 200 days after earlier falling below the level. The Dow slipped 0.3 percent, falling for a seventh day to a six- month low.
“I’m not surprised to see the market down given the downward bias we’ve seen the last couple of days,” said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities Inc. in Los Angeles. “If anything, the report slants the bias towards a September rate hike, given the strength of the jobs numbers.”
Data today showed employers added 215,000 jobs in July and the unemployment rate held at a seven-year low of 5.3 percent. The gain in payrolls followed a 231,000 advance in June that was bigger than previously estimated. While the report also showed a pickup in hours worked, average hourly earnings climbed a less- than-forecast 2.1 percent from a year earlier.
The Federal Reserve is assessing the strength of the U.S. recovery from an early year slowdown as policy makers debate whether the world’s largest economy can withstand the first rate increase since 2006. Traders were pricing in a 56 percent probability of the first increase next month.
“There are probably still a fair number of investors that don’t quite believe the Fed is really going to raise rates,” said Bob Baur, chief global economist at Principal Global Investors in Des Moines, Iowa. The firm oversees $346.2 billion. “This report does nothing to deter the Fed from doing that in September.”
Investors are also watching corporate earnings to gauge the economy’s health. Some 88 percent of S&P 500 members have released results this season, with three-quarters beating profit estimates and half topping sales projections. Analysts now forecast a more modest drop in second-quarter earnings, calling for a 2.1 percent fall instead of a 6.4 percent decline a month earlier.
The S&P 500 dropped 1.3 percent this week amid declines among media and biotechnology shares. Commodity producers have also slumped and Apple Inc. fell into a correction. The benchmark measure is up 0.9 percent this year, trailing most developed-market gauges. The Dow fell 1.8 percent in the week, with Walt Disney Co. leading declines.
While data showed the labor market chugged along at a pace policy makers want to see in order to raise rates, tepid gains in hourly earnings indicate little momentum in wage growth. A rout in commodities from industrial metals to oil continued on signs of a slowdown in China, while selling accelerated in shares of some of the bull market’s biggest winners from biotechnology to media.
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