Stocks rise as traders digest mixed November jobs report

Stocks sank on Friday to end the week lower, as investors digested updates on the Omicron variant alongside the Labor Department’s November jobs report, which came in mixed compared to Wall Street’s elevated expectations. 

The S&P 500 posted a weekly loss of 1.2% since last Friday, sliding in volatile trading after the discovery of the Omicron variant. The Nasdaq underperformed with a weekly loss of 2.6%. Treasury yields also dipped as investors bought safe haven assets, and the yield on the benchmark 10-year note slid below 1.4%. 

Developments around the Omicron variant remained a focal point. So far at least five U.S. states have reported at least one case of the variant. The variant has also been found in more than three dozen countries globally, CNBC reported, citing the World Health Organization. The report also said the WHO has so far seen “a suggestion that there is increased transmissibility” of the Omicron variant, while noting it is still too soon to determine whether it is more or less transmissible than the Delta variant, or whether it causes more severe disease.  

The market moves Friday also came following the release of the Labor Department’s November jobs report, which showed a disappointing rate of hiring for the month even as the unemployment rate fell to a fresh pandemic-era low. Payroll gains came in at 210,000, or less than half the 550,000 consensus economists were expecting. The jobless rate fell to 4.2%, dipping more than anticipated from October’s 4.6%. 

The moves on Friday came in contrast to a rally on Thursday, when market participants initially shrugged off the discovery of multiple cases in the U.S.

“The markets … have been pricing in, really, a worst-case scenario,” Jim Smiegiel, SEI chief investment officer, told Yahoo Finance Live. 

“I think the market is now switching gears a little bit and perhaps lessening the intensity on the potential for negative outcomes,” he added. “The big issue still remains more about the world government’s reaction to the variant and what that means from a lockdown perspective. And that’s what the market is still kind of struggling with at this stage.” 

Others have struck an even more optimistic tone, suggesting the economic impact of the Omicron variant will ultimately prove less drastic than initially feared. 

“If you look back at Delta, there really wasn’t a meaningful impact in terms of actual consumption … maybe we saw a little bit of a shift away from services in the early stages of the reopen back towards goods, but overall consumption held up just fine,” Garrett Melson, Natixis Investment Managers Solutions portfolio strategist, told Yahoo Finance Live on Thursday.

“And on the capex front, we still see signs that companies are saying they’re going to invest in their businesses and they’re doing just that,” Melson added. “Lockdowns are certainly not happening here in the U.S. There’s no appetite from the government and certainly no appetite from consumers.” 

4:05 p.m. ET: Stocks end session, week sharply lower

Here’s where U.S. equities ended Friday’s session:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): -38.67 (-0.84%) to 4,538.43

  • Dow (^DJI): -59.71 (-0.17%) to 34,580.08

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): -295.85 (-1.92%) to 15,085.47

3:36 p.m. ET: What economists are saying about the November jobs report 

While the headline payrolls number in the November jobs report came in well short of estimates, many economists highlighted the better-than-expected improvements in other metrics, including the unemployment rate and labor force participation rate. 

Here’s what a number of economists had to say about the report, based on notes and emails sent to Yahoo Finance: 

  • “While November displayed 210,000 jobs gained at the headline level, which some may suggest is a disappointment, when we look at the details of the report, we see some significant strengths. Indeed, the six-month average for non-seasonally adjusted private payroll gains is more than 700,000 jobs/month, an impressive number by any standard … The unemployment rate declined impressively from 4.6% in October to 4.24% in November, even as the labor force grew strongly, an indication of labor market strength.” – Rick Rieder BlackRock’s chief investment officer of global fixed income

  • “Arguably the biggest surprise in the November employment report was the unexpected 0.4 [percentage point] decline in the unemployment rate to 4.2% … slowing job gains and sturdy wages are a signal of a tight labor market.” – Joe LaVorgna, Natixis CIB managing director and chief economist of the Americas

  • “Today’s jobs report presents a mixed picture of the labor market recovery as storm clouds gather from a rebounding Delta variant and new variant looms. The divergence between the establishment and household surveys is unusual, but is an important reminder of how difficult it is to measure the labor market in a pandemic.” – Daniel Zhao, Glassdoor senior economist

  • “Overall, while this report is disappointing, it does not change our view that faster tapering will be announced in December, unless the scientific news on the Omicron variant over the next couple weeks is disastrous. The Fed is focused on the inflation overshoot, which will get much worse before it gets better, and officials have made it very clear that they want to take out insurance against the risk that the latest spike does not become embedded.” – Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics

10:47 a.m. ET: Stocks trade lower as tech lags

The three major stock indexes traded in the red after opening in positive territory, with investors continuing to mull the latest headlines on the Omicron variant and the November jobs report. 

The information technology and consumer discretionary sectors underperformed in the S&P 500, while consumer staples was the only sector in the green. 

Salesforce.com, Boeing and Microsoft lagged in the Dow, contributing to the more than 200-point drop in the index. The Nasdaq dropped more than 2% amid the drawdown in heavily weighted technology names. 

10:15 a.m. ET: Docusign shares post biggest-ever drop after 3Q billings, guidance miss

Shares of software company Docusign (DOCU) slid on Friday after posting disappointing third-quarter billings results and current-quarter guidance, suggesting business activity was returning to more “normalized” levels after a pandemic-induced surge.

Shares were down more than 40% as of morning trading. Late Thursday, the e-signature company reported third-quarter billings growth of 28%, marking a major slowdown from the previous 61% growth seen in the second quarter. Billings are a closely watched metric for software companies with recurring revenue subscription models.

“After six quarters of accelerated growth, we saw customers return to more normalized buying patters, resulting in a 28% year-over-year billings growth,” Dan Springer, CEO of Docusign, said in the company’s earning’s statement. 

And for the current quarter, Docusign sees revenue coming in between $557 million and $563 million, missing Wall Street’s estimates for $574.2 million. 

9:31 a.m. ET: Stocks open higher after mixed jobs report

Here’s where markets were trading shortly after the opening bell: 

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +23.48 (+0.51%) to 4,600.58

  • Dow (^DJI): +125.06 (+0.36%) to 34,746.85

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +89.04 (+0.58%) to 15,466.81

  • Crude (CL=F): +$2.39 (+3.59%) to $68.89 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): +$8.90 (+0.50%) to $1,771.60 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +1.1 bps to yield 1.46% 

9:20 a.m. ET: November jobs report comes in mixed, with payrolls disappointing while unemployment rate falls to pandemic-era low 

The November jobs report offered a mixed bag for investors to digest, as non-farm payroll growth came in sharply short of consensus expectations while the unemployment and labor force participation rates topped estimates. 

Non-farm payrolls grew by 210,000 in November following a revised 546,000 in October. This was well short of the 550,000 jobs expected. The unemployment rate improved to 4.2% from October’s 4.6%, and reached it lowest level since February 2020. 

The labor force participation rate also ticked up slightly more than anticipated in November to reach 61.8%, versus the 61.7% consensus economists were expecting and the 61.6% posted in October. The labor force participation rate had been 63.3% in February 2020 before the pandemic meaningfully impacted the job market.

Still, as of November, the civilian labor force was still down by about 2.4 million participants, compared to February 2020. 

7:23 a.m. ET Friday: Stock futures drift sideways ahead of jobs report 

Here were the main moves in markets as the overnight session kicked off: 

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): +0.25 points (+0.01%), to 4,576.00

  • Dow futures (YM=F): +11 points (+0.03%), to 34,633.00

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): -1 points (-0.01%) to 15,987.50

  • Crude (CL=F): +$1.89 (+2.84%) to $68.39 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): +$10.80 (+0.61%) to $1,773.50 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): -1.8 bps to yield 1.432%

6:31 p.m. ET Thursday: Stock futures jump ahead of jobs report

Here were the main moves in markets during the overnight session:  

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): +11.5 points (+0.25%), to 4,587.25

  • Dow futures (YM=F): +94 points (+0.27%), to 34,716.00

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): +34.50 points (+0.22%) to 16,023.00

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 10: People walk by the Wall Street Bull near the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on August 10, 2021 in New York City. Markets were up in morning trading as investors look to a rare bipartisan effort in the Senate to pass a massive infrastructure bill that, if passed, will infuse billions into the American economy. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter

Christopher Lewis

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