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S&P 500 and Nasdaq end Friday lower after November jobs report

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Stocks cut much of their earlier losses Friday as investors looked past hotter-than-expected labor data to the upcoming Federal Reserve meeting.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up just 34.87 points, or 0.1%, to 34,429.88 points after hitting a session low of more than 350 points down. The S&P 500 dipped 0.1% to 4,071.70, rebounding from an earlier loss of 1.2%. The Nasdaq Composite also made up ground to end nearly 0.2% lower at 11,461.50 points. The tech-heavy index dropped as much as 1.6% earlier in the day.

All three indexes set weekly gains, with the Nasdaq posting the largest increase at nearly 2.1%. The S&P 500 added 1.1%, and the Dow ticked up by 0.2%. Friday’s close marked the first time the three major indexes notched back-to-back weekly gains since October.

Stocks dipped after labor data released Friday morning showed payrolls rose by 263,000 in November, a bigger gain than the 200,000 increase expected by economists polled by Dow Jones. Average hourly earnings also came in above expectations, jumping 0.6% compared with the prior month and 5.1% against the same month a year ago. The unemployment rate held steady at 3.7%.

The market quelled much of those losses as the trading day went on. Market observers attributed the move to investors being increasingly able to shake off concerning individual economic indicators following remarks on Wednesday from Fed Chair Jerome Powell that appeared to confirm slowing rate hikes starting as early as December.

“Just one strong labor data point is not going to be enough after Powell’s speech,” said Anna Han, vice president at Wells Fargo Securities. “He’s confirming that we are seeing the trend that we are having an impact on inflation, so I think that sort of soothes the market and takes pressure off.”

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It was the final monthly employment report before the Fed’s two-day meeting Dec. 13-14, in which the central bank is expected to slow to a 50 basis point interest rate hike from the 75 basis point hikes seen in recent months.

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