US stocks edge down as market digests lacklustre job gains

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, on Oct 6, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks finished lower on Friday (Oct 8) and cut into the week's gains, after the US government reported disappointing hiring data in September, even as the unemployment rate edged downwards.

The United States added only 194,000 jobs last month, less than half the number expected by analysts due to declining public sector staffing and lacklustre hiring in bars and restaurants.

On the positive side, the unemployment rate ticked down more than expected to 4.8 per cent, and the last two months' jobs gains were revised upwards.

"It actually wasn't as bad as it appeared," JJ Kinahan of TD Ameritrade said of the monthly report, adding that the decline in hiring in schools skewed the overall figure.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped less than 0.1 per cent to 34,746.25.

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 0.5 per cent to 14,579.54, while the S&P 500 ended at 4,391.34, down 0.2 per cent for the day, but up about 0.8 per cent for the week.

Stocks opened the week sharply lower amid worries over rising inflation and a possible US debt default given partisan gridlock in Washington on raising the borrowing limit.

But stocks climbed on Wednesday and Thursday as a congressional deal to push back the debt ceiling decision till December gained traction.

Analysts broadly expect the Federal Reserve to stick with a plan to soon taper stimulus. That sets the stage for more choppiness in the weeks ahead, Kinahan said.

"I think we're going to continue to have more elevated volatility and volatile sessions because you're seeing the market pressures on interest rates, in anticipation of the Fed at some point talking about when they are going to exactly start tapering," he said.

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