U.S. stocks edged lower on Friday after data showed employment in December rose less than expected but a rebound in wages suggested sustained growth in the labor market.
The public and private sectors together added 156,000 jobs last month, a U.S. Labor Department report showed, compared with 204,000 jobs added in November.
Average hourly earnings increased 10 cents, or 0.4 percent, after slipping 0.1 percent in November. That pushed the year-on-year increase in average hourly earnings to 2.9 percent, the largest increase since June 2009.
Unemployment rate ticked up to 4.7 percent.
The report adds to a recent spate of robust economic data across sectors including manufacturing and automobiles. This, coupled with President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge for fiscal stimulus, could prompt the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates faster than anticipated.
“Wage growth is firming up and if we get over 3.0 percent, the Fed would feel a lot more comfortable to raise rates further,” said Craig Dismuke, chief economist at Vining Sparks in Memphis, Tennessee.
The minutes of the Federal Reserve’s December meeting released on Wednesday showed that almost every Fed policymaker agreed Trump’s measures could call for a faster move on rates. The central bank currently expects to raise rates thrice this year.
The dollar .DXY rose to session highs against major currencies, while gold XAU= slipped.
At 9:38 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 50.45 points, or 0.25 percent, at 19,848.84, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 4.31 points, or 0.19 percent, at 2,264.69 and the Nasdaq Composite index .IXIC was down 3.73 points, or 0.07 percent, at 5,484.21.
Nine of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were lower, with telecom services .SPLRCL losing the most by 2.11 percent. Financials .SPSY gained 0.1 percent, while healthcare .SPXHC was flat.
Wal-Mart (WMT.N) fell 1.2 percent at $68.41 after the company said Rosalind Brewer, chief executive officer of its warehouse club stores Sam’s Club, would retire from on Feb. 1.
Amgen (AMGN.O) gave the biggest boost to the S&P, rising 4.9 percent, after a U.S. district judge blocked Sanofi (SASY.PA) and Regeneron (REGN.O) from selling their cholesterol drug, which Amgen said infringed its patents. Regeneron was off 5.3 percent and was the index’s biggest percentage loser.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,645 to 919. On the Nasdaq, 1,279 issues fell and 964 advanced.
The S&P 500 index showed five new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 21 new highs and five new lows.
(Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)