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S&P 500 edges up after mixed jobs data

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By Bansari Mayur Kamdar and Johann M Cherian

(Reuters) – The benchmark S&P 500 inched higher on Friday in choppy trading after a mixed employment report signaled resilience in the labor market in the face of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive monetary tightening.

The data showed that while U.S. job growth slowed more than expected in June after surging in the previous month, labor market conditions remained tight, with the unemployment rate retreating from a seven-month high and strong wage gains continuing.

“It’s a really unusual time… we’re getting news out that the economy is doing pretty good with employment being viewed as a tailwind for growth,” said Steve Wyett, chief investment strategist at BOK Financial.

“But at the same time, it just puts the Fed in a position where they’ve got more work to do.”

Traders stuck to bets the Fed will raise its benchmark interest rate this month to a 5.25%-5.5% range, but likely expect no more hikes beyond that.

They now see about a 34% chance of a further rate hike in November, down from nearly even odds before the report, according to CME’s Fedwatch tool.

Chicago Fed President Austan Goolsbee said he did not disagree with the consensus among central bank policymakers that rates will need to rise a couple more times this year.

Wall Street’s main indexes ended sharply lower in a broad selloff in the previous session, with the benchmark S&P 500 posting its biggest daily percentage drop in six weeks, after employment data on Thursday showed the number of jobs more than doubled in June.

At 12:05 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 26.20 points, or 0.08%, at 33,896.06, the S&P 500 was up 9.12 points, or 0.21%, at 4,420.71, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 67.31 points, or 0.49%, at 13,746.36. The Russell 2000 index, that houses small-cap names, added 1.5%, outpacing peers.

Six of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors advanced in mid-day trading, with commodity stocks such as energy and materials up over 1% each and outperforming the broader market.

All three major U.S. stock indexes were on track to end the week lower as escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington also weighed on market sentiment.

Among other movers, the S&P 500 banking index gained 1.4%. All major banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, ticked higher ahead of reporting second-quarter earnings next week.

Tesla rose 1.0% after it said it would offer new buyers of its top-selling electric vehicles in China a cash bonus equivalent to almost $500 if they have a referral from an existing owner.

Levi Strauss & Co tumbled 7.2% as the denim clothing maker cut its annual profit forecast on Thursday.

U.S.-listed shares of Alibaba gained 7.9% after Chinese authorities said they will impose a $984 million fine on Ant Group, ending the affiliate fintech company’s years-long regulatory overhaul.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 3.45-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 2.41-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded three new 52-week highs and four new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 28 new highs and 49 new lows.

(Reporting by Bansari Mayur Kamdar and Johann M Cherian in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

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