U.S. stocks were off the highs and trading little changed on Friday, after the closely watched July jobs report came in stronger than expected.
The Dow Jones Industrial DJIA, +0.11% most recently was up 13 points, or less than 0.1%, to 22,034, briefly hitting an intraday record in early trading at 22,089.05 at its highs. The blue-chip is in position to set its eighth straight record close and advance for a ninth consecutive session, its longest such streak since February. The Dow has notched 33 record closes in 2017.
The U.S. created 209,000 new jobs in July, easily beating Wall Street forecasts for 175,000 jobs to have been added. Separately, the unemployment rate moved to 4.3% from 4.4%, retouching a 16-year low.
The report is seen as crucial for the Federal Reserve as it decides whether to raise interest rates one more time this year or to keep them on hold. After a string of lackluster economic readings recently, investors are starting to doubt further monetary tightening is on the cards in the short term. Those doubts have helped send the dollar sharply lower.
“The number came in above consensus, but in the ballpark we were expecting, so we’re taking it in stride,” said Jeff Zipper, managing director of investments at U.S. Bank Private Client Wealth Management. “There were no big surprises, and net-net, I think the Federal Reserve remains on track for one more interest rate hike this year after this.”
For the week, the Dow was set for a gain, its second straight weekly gain, as well as its fourth positive week of the past five. The S&P is up 0.2% on the week while the Nasdaq is down 0.5%. The S&P is less than half a percentage point away from its own record, while the Nasdaq is less than 2 percentage points below its own.
“There are some concerns that we’re fully valued, but we’re of the thesis that markets will continue to grind higher until the end of the year,” Zipper said. “Corporate earnings show that both the top line and the bottom line are coming in nicely, which justifies where we’re trading.”
In earnings on Friday, Cigna Corp.’s CI, -0.43% profit came in well ahead of forecasts, and the health care insurance company raised its 2017 outlook. Shares slipped by 1%.
U.S.-listed shares of Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC RBS, +2.03% gained 2.2% after the U.K. bank posted its first half-year profit in three years.