By Sruthi Shankar and Shreyashi Sanyal
(Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Friday boosted by better-than-expected job growth in March, which eased concerns of a domestic slowdown, and hopes that the United States and China would resolve their trade dispute.
The gains put the benchmark S&P 500 on track to close higher for seven days in a row, in what could be its best such winning streak since October 2017.
U.S. employment growth in March accelerated from a 17-month low as milder weather drove hiring in sectors like construction, further allaying fears of an economic slowdown in the first quarter.
"When the February numbers came out, the fear at the time was that maybe a slowdown is closer than expected. These numbers are definitely helping reduce them," said Ryan Nauman, market strategist at Informa Financial Intelligence in Zephyr Cove, Nevada.
The Labor Department said nonfarm payrolls rose by 196,000 jobs last month, while economists polled by Reuters had forecast an increase of 180,000. Data for February was revised up to show payrolls advancing by 33,000 jobs instead of the previously reported 20,000, the smallest job gain since September 2017.
However, wage increases slowed in March leaving the data broadly supportive of the Federal Reserve's decision last month to suspend its three-year campaign to tighten monetary policy.
Trade hopes and a dovish Fed have lifted the S&P 500 to its highest since Oct. 9, putting the index 1.7% away from an all-time high of 2,940.91 points.
Stocks across the world got a lift from President Donald Trump's comments on Thursday that Beijing and Washington were close to a trade deal that could be announced within four weeks. Although Trump later said he would not predict that a deal will be reached.
At 1:01 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 23.54 points, or 0.09%, at 26,408.17, the S&P 500 was up 10.13 points, or 0.35%, at 2,889.52 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 39.99 points, or 0.51%, at 7,931.77.
Bank stocks, which tend to benefit from a rising interest rates, dipped 0.19%.
Investors will focus on falling profits and lower interest rates as next week major U.S. banks kick off what analysts expect to be the first quarter of contracting corporate earnings since 2016.
Energy stocks jumped 1.45%, the most among the eight major S&P indexes that were trading higher, as oil prices firmed.
The technology sector rose 0.35%, rebounding from the previous session's fall, supported by Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp.
Capping gains on the Dow Industrials was Dow Inc, which dropped 5.2% after J.P. Morgan started covering the company, which was spun-off from DowDuPont Inc, with an "underweight" rating.
Intel Corp slipped 1% after Wells Fargo downgraded the chipmaker's stock to "market perform" from "outperform".
Boeing Co dipped 0.8% after UBS cut its price target on the planemaker's shares and said the preliminary Ethiopian report pointed to the MCAS anti-stall software as a common contributor to the recent fatal crashes.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 2.50-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 2.39-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 28 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 63 new highs and 15 new lows.
(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)
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Updated Date: Apr 06, 2019 01:05:26 IST