US stocks dip following mixed September jobs report

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished lower on Friday (Oct 7) after official data showed the US economy added 156,000 jobs in September, missing expectations by a bit.

While solid, analysts said the jobs number was not enough to confirm the Federal Reserve's plans for hiking rates by the end of the year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 0.2 per cent to 18,240.49.

The broad-based S&P 500 shed 0.3 per cent to 2,153.74, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index lost 0.3 per cent at 5,292.40.

Analysts said that the September jobs report showed firm wage growth as well as the return to the labor force of some workers who had been on the sidelines.

"We did see a slightly soft headline payroll figure but wages were up and hours were up and I think the details of the report were a bit better than the headline," said Eric Viloria, an analyst at Wells Fargo.

Viloria said the Federal Reserve would likely hike interest rates in 2016, though some analysts said there was still enough weakness in the data for the Fed to hold off.

Honeywell shares plunged 7.5 per cent after the international conglomerate lowered its profit and sales forecast, citing, among other things, lower shipments in its aviation business and delays in some of its defense and space programs.

Other industrial stocks were weak, with Dow members General Electric and United Technologies losing 0.7 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively.

Boeing, another Dow member, lost 0.4 per cent despite announcing a contract to sell Qatar Airways up to 100 planes for as much as US$18.6 billion (S$25 billion).

Gap surged 15.2 per cent after the apparel retailer reported that comparable sales for September fell 3 per cent, but added that the performance was hindered by a fire at a New York distribution centre. Analysts viewed the report as strong and said it indicated a better trend for the retailer after a lengthy slump.

The figures boosted other retailers, with Macy's, Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters all rising at least 1 per cent.

Insurers Allstate, Chubb and Progressive gained 1 per cent or more as Hurricane Matthew's trajectory suggested the southern US might avoid a worst-case scenario. The much-smaller Universal Insurance Holdings, a big player in the region, surged 14.5 per cent.