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Stocks close higher after strong April employment report

CNBC logo CNBC 5/3/2019 Yun Li
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Stocks ended higher Friday, rebounding from two days of losses, as data showed U.S. job creation was stronger than expected in April.

The Dow gained 197 points to close at 26,504, while the S&P 500 rose nearly 1%, posting its biggest gain since April 1. The Nasdaq added 1.6% to hit a record high. Shares of Amazon got a boost from an investment by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

The U.S. added a robust 263,000 new hires in April, while the unemployment rate fell to 3.6%, the lowest since December 1969, according to a Labor Department report Friday. The nonfarm payroll growth far outpaced Wall Street expectations of 190,000 and a 3.8% jobless rate, according to Dow Jones estimates.

“It was definitely a strong number, without a doubt,” said Randy Frederick, the vice president of trading and derivatives at the Schwab Center for Financial Research. “The average for the last three months has only been around 164,000, so it’s way above that.”

The market halted two straight days of losses driven by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s comments Wednesday on low inflation pressures being transitory. The comment lowered the odds of an interest rate cut, which disappointed investors.

“Today’s jobs report provides strong evidence that the Fed should not try to fix what isn’t broken,” said Ron Temple, the head of U.S. equity at Lazard Asset Management. “After adding 169,000 jobs per month for the last three months, in spite of multi-decade lows in unemployment, it should be clear that the U.S. economy does not need additional stimulus measures.”

Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester told CNBC on Friday said that she sees no need to adjust the central bank’s monetary policy, while St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said the Fed’s monetary measure now is “a little tight” and may have to be reconsidered.

Friday’s rally was led by Amazon, whose stock rose for the first time in five days after Buffett told CNBC Thursday that one of his investment managers at Berkshire Hathaway has been buying Amazon. Shares of the e-commerce giant were up more than 3% Friday.

Shares of Tesla jumped more than 4% after the electric car maker said Friday it increased the size of the stock and bond offering announced a day earlier and CEO Elon Musk intends to buy even more equity.

Despite Friday’s gains, Dow still posted a weekly loss as the Fed Chairman’s comments triggered a two-day sell-off earlier in the week. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq finished the week slightly higher.

Strong earnings this season have been supporting the markets. More than half of the S&P 500 has reported first-quarter earnings and the results have largely topped expectations. According to FactSet, 74.7% of the S&P 500 companies have beaten earnings estimates.

CNBC’s Silvia Amaro contributed reporting.

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