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Friday January 24th, 2020 2:20AM

Stocks are off to mixed start on Wall Street as hiring slows

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are off to a mixed start on Wall Street after the government reported that U.S. employers eased back on hiring last month. Health care and technology stocks were doing well in the early going. The price of crude oil fell again, pulling energy companies lower. Overseas markets were modestly higher as worries recede over the U.S.-Iranian conflict. Major U.S. indexes remained near the record highs they set a day earlier. The S&P 500 rose 1 point to 3,276. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 21 points, or 0.1%, to 28,933. The Nasdaq edged up 1 point to 9,203.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

Global stock markets mostly rose Friday as worries receded that the United States and Iran might be stepping closer to the edge of war. Traders were instead looking ahead to U.S. jobs figures for clues on the health of the world's biggest economy.

France's CAC 40 edged up almost 0.1% to 6,043, while Germany's DAX added 0.2% to 13,525. Britain's FTSE 100 was down less than 0.1% at 7,591. U.S. shares were set to drift higher with Dow futures up 0.2% and S&P 500 futures up 0.3%.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 edged up 0.5% to finish at 23,850.57. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.8% to 6,929.00. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.9% to 2,206.39. Hong Kong's Hang Seng is up 0.3% at 28,638.20, while the Shanghai Composite inched down nearly 0.1% to 3,092.29.

Investors appear to be seeking out riskier investments, such as technology stocks, and moving back out of traditional safety spots like gold, which was down 0.3%. A measure of fear in the stock market had its largest drop in a week on Thursday.

Stocks have been rebounding since Wednesday on comments from U.S. President Donald Trump and Iranian officials that appear to suggest no military escalation is imminent in their conflict. Markets had tumbled on the threat of war after the United States killed a top Iranian general in a drone strike.

Diminishing worries about a U.S.-Iran war put more of the market’s focus on the economy, corporate profits and other inputs that directly affect stock prices.

“The market is in pretty solid shape,” said Matt Hanna, portfolio manager at Summit Global Investments. “We could see some volatility in the beginning of 2020” following a well-worn path of choppy first halves for stocks during presidential election years, “but we don’t see any sort of recession on the horizon.”

The spotlight is moving to Friday’s labor report, and economists expect it to show employers added 160,000 jobs last month. They also forecast the unemployment rate to hold at its low level of 3.5%. The numbers are key because a strong job market has been propping up the economy and allowing U.S. households to continue to spend, even as manufacturing weakens due to tariffs and trade wars.

Across markets, worries about a recession have faded since last year as central banks cut interest rates and pumped stimulus into the global economy. The United States and China also moved toward an interim deal in their trade war. China confirmed on Thursday that its chief envoy in tariff talks with Washington will visit next week to sign their “Phase 1” trade deal.

In energy markets, the benchmark U.S. crude oil contract rose 20 cents to $59.76 a barrel. It slipped 5 cents on Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 26 cents to $65.63 a barrel.

In currencies, the dollar rose to 109.64 Japanese yen from 109.36 yen on Thursday. The euro fell to $1.1097 from $1.1114 .

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Business, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Financial Markets, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Utilities
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