Wall St gains as jobless claims data eases rate worries

BY Reuters | ECONOMIC | 12/29/22 09:33 AM EST

By Ankika Biswas and Amruta Khandekar

(Reuters) - Technology and growth stocks lifted Wall Street's main indexes higher on Thursday after data pointing to signs of a cooling labor market eased worries over future interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Megacap stocks Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc, Microsoft and Amazon.com Inc gained between 1.5% and 3%, also helped by a decline in the 10-year Treasury yield.

All the major S&P 500 sectoral indexes rose, with consumer discretionary and information technology up 1.8% and 1.9%, respectively.

The U.S. Labor Department's report showed initial claims for unemployment benefits rose 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 225,000 for the week ended Dec. 24. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 225,000 claims for the latest week.

The report hinted at some softening in an otherwise tight labor market, bolstering hopes that the U.S. central bank would dial down its aggressive monetary policy stance.

"Signs of the job market beginning to weaken is certainly apparent," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist, Spartan Capital Securities LLC.

"We're at the end of the year and of course, the market has not performed well. We're seeing some bargain hunting coming in today."

Traders held on to bets of a 25 basis point rate hike from the Federal Reserve in February and see rates peaking at 4.92% in June 2023..

The Cboe Volatility Index, known as Wall Street's "fear gauge", slipped, signaling an easing in investor anxiety.

A strong labor market and resilient American economy have fueled worries that interest rates could stay higher for longer even though easing inflationary pressures keep alive hopes of smaller increases.

The Fed's aggressive rate hikes have hammered equities this year, with the benchmark S&P 500 shedding 19.6% and tech-heavy Nasdaq losing nearly 33% in value.

Wall Street's main indexes dropped over 1% on Wednesday, with the Nasdaq hitting a 2022 closing low as rising COVID cases in China and geopolitical tensions added to fears of a likely recession in 2023.

However, investor preference for high-dividend yielding stocks with steady earnings have staved off a steeper decline in the industrials-heavy Dow Jones, which is down just 8.8% on the year.

At 9:56 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 262.26 points, or 0.80%, at 33,137.97, the S&P 500 was up 46.52 points, or 1.23%, at 3,829.74, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 176.89 points, or 1.73%, at 10,390.18.

Tesla shares rose 6.5% after Chief Executive Elon Musk told staff they should not be "bothered by stock market craziness". The stock is still down 66% for the year.

Shares of U.S.-listed Chinese online education firms such as Gaotu Techedu Inc and TAL Education Group fell between 5% and 11% after Bloomberg News reported that China's ministry of education published a new set of restrictions.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 7.74-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 4.29-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded no new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 24 new highs and 81 new lows.

(Reporting by Ankika Biswas and Amruta Khandekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

In general the bond market is volatile, and fixed income securities carry interest rate risk. (As interest rates rise, bond prices usually fall, and vice versa. This effect is usually more pronounced for longer-term securities.) Fixed income securities also carry inflation risk and credit and default risks for both issuers and counterparties. Unlike individual bonds, most bond funds do not have a maturity date, so avoiding losses caused by price volatility by holding them until maturity is not possible.

Lower-quality debt securities generally offer higher yields, but also involve greater risk of default or price changes due to potential changes in the credit quality of the issuer. Any fixed income security sold or redeemed prior to maturity may be subject to loss.

Before investing, consider the funds' investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses. Contact Fidelity for a prospectus or, if available, a summary prospectus containing this information. Read it carefully.