Wall Street shrugs off weak jobs data to end higher

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York City. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - United States equities capped a four-day winning streak by closing higher on Wednesday (Feb 2) despite weak employment figures, amid receding fears the Federal Reserve will pull out the big guns to fight inflation.

Positive earnings reports, including from Google-parent Alphabet, boosted the tech sector.

The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.6 per cent to finish at 35,629.33.

The broad-based S&P 500 popped up 0.9 per cent to 4,589.38, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.5 per cent to close at 14,417.55.

Stocks had been battered for weeks after the Fed signaled its plans to raise interest rates, but recent comments from some of its most hawkish policymakers quelled concerns borrowing costs will jump sharply in March and beyond.

Mr Karl Haeling of LBBW said the market was oversold and "due for a rally."

"I do think that less hawkish commentary from the Fed officials this week have certainly helped calm some concerns. I think, in particular, the market was worried about the possibility of a 50-basis-point rate hike at the March meeting," he told AFP.

The rally continued despite worse-than-expected data showing a decrease in hiring last month at private firms, a grim preview of the official jobs report on Friday, which may show the first drop in employment in a year.

Meanwhile, a deluge of earnings lifted Alphabet 7.5 per cent as the tech giant reported annual profits of US$76 billion (S$100 billion).

But PayPal was punished with a 25 per cent slide after missing profit forecasts and offering a disappointing quarterly outlook.

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