Stock market today: Wall Street mixed ahead new jobs data and upcoming Fed meeting

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Early trading is mixed on Wall Street ahead of new data on the labor market and a meeting next week where the Federal Reserve will decide what to do with the benchmark interest rate, which it’s pushed higher in part to cool hiring.

Futures for the S&P 500 gained 0.1% before the bell, but they slipped 0.2% for the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

While still healthy, the labor market has started to cool recently, boosting hopes that the Fed’s interest rate hikes are over. Part of the Fed’s goal in ratcheting up interest rates for nearly two years has been to loosen the job market and slow wage growth, which can lead to higher prices.

U.S. job gains have slowed in the past five months to an average of 190,000 per month, down from an average of 287,000 in the first five months of the year. Analysts forecast that U.S. private non-farm job gains will come in around 173,000 when the government issues its November jobs report on Friday.

On Thursday, the Labor Department issues its weekly jobless claims report. Applications for unemployment benefits are considered a stand-in for the number of U.S. layoffs. Weekly layoffs have remained low for years, however, the total number of Americans collecting jobless benefits has risen to its highest level in two years as people are having a harder time finding jobs.

Earlier this week, the government reported that U.S. employers posted 8.7 million job openings in October, the fewest since March 2021, further evidence that hiring is cooling in the face of higher interest rates.

Investors are betting the Federal Reserve’s next move will be to cut rather than raise interest rates. The Fed’s next meeting on interest rates is next week, and the widespread expectation is that it will leave its main interest rate alone at its highest level in more than two decades.

“The market is currently in a consolidation phase as investors eagerly await the November U.S. employment report on Friday. This report is pivotal; if it indicates slowing inflation on wages and a weaker job market, it could fuel expectations for rate cuts in 2024,” Anderson Alves of ActivTrades said in a commentary.

In equities trading before the bell Thursday, GameStop tumbled 8.8% after it missed Wall Street’s third-quarter sales expectations.

Chewy, the pet food delivery company, also fell sharply after missing third-quarter sales and profit forecasts and lowering its guidance for the fourth quarter. Shares were down 10.9% before the bell.

In Europe at midday, Germany’s DAX edged 0.2% lower, while the CAC 40 in Paris fell 0.1%. Britain’s FTSE 100 inched down less than 0.1%.

Germany has seen its exports fall as new orders have dropped. On Thursday, the government reported that industrial output fell 0.4% in October from the month before, from a minus 1.3% decline in September.

There is growing concern among investors that high interest rates meant to quash inflation might go too far, pushing economies into recession.

Expectations of slowing growth helped pull the price of a barrel of benchmark U.S. crude down 4% on Wednesday, as expectations built that there’s too much oil available relative to demand.

Early Thursday, U.S. crude rose 43 cents at $69.81 per barrel. It closed under $70 on Wednesday for the first time since early July. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 54 cents to $74.84 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar fell to a three-month low against the Japanese yen after a meeting between Bank of Japan Gov. Kazuo Ueda and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Reports said Ueda explained current policy ahead of a central bank meeting last week, but the meeting revived speculation of a change in the BOJ’s ultra-lax monetary stance, which has contributed to a sharp weakening of the yen against the dollar.

The dollar fell to 145.09 Japanese yen from 147.34 yen. The euro rose to $1.0769 from $1.0763.

China reported Thursday that its exports rose 0.5% in November, the first year-on-year month of increase since April, as shipments surged ahead of the holiday season.

But imports fell: China has been grappling with sluggish foreign trade this year amid slack global demand and a stalled recovery, despite the country’s reopening after its strict COVID-19 controls were lifted late last year.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 0.7% to 16,345.89 on renewed heavy selling of technology and property shares.

The Shanghai Composite index lost 0.1% to 2,966.21.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index fell 1.8% to 32,858.31. South Korea’s Kospi edged 0.1% lower to 2,491.64.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.1% to 7,173.30. Bangkok’s SET lost 0.7% and the Sensex in India fell 0.3%.

In the bond market, the 10-year yield rose to 4.16% by early Thursday, from 4.12% late Wednesday. In October it was above 5%, at its highest level since 2007.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 fell 0.4% in its third straight loss though the index remains near its best level in 20 months. The Dow shed 0.2% and the Nasdaq lost 0.6%.

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