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US Stocks Steady Amid `Noisy' January Jobs Report

· 02/05/2021 08:23

01:23 PM EST, 02/05/2021 (MT Newswires) -- US stocks held on to early gains in midday trading on Friday, keeping key indexes around record levels on hopes of an economic recovery this year driven by heavy stimulus packages and COVID-19 vaccine rollouts amid a "noisy" January job market report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 75.92 points, or 0.24%, to 31,131.78. The S&P 500 rose 13.81 points, or 0.36% to 3,885.55 and the Nasdaq Composite added 53.42 points, or 0.39%, to 13,831.16, with both indexes stretching deeper into unchartered territories.

At current levels, all three key indexes are heading for their first weekly gains in two weeks after the S&P and the Nasdaq indexes hit record levels on Thursday, partly on expectations of another $1.9 trillion aid package to help the ailing economy.

On Friday, data showed a 49,000 rebound in nonfarm payrolls for January following a revised 277,000 drop the month before, with economists pointing out to a very mixed details from the report.

"Lots of noise," said Aneta Markowska, an economist at Jefferies. "The details were very confusing and do not provide much meaningful signal. We expect a very strong payroll print in February on the back of fiscal support and the reopening of California's economy."

Meanwhile, Activision Blizzard (ATVI) climbed to a record high after the game maker posted a strong fourth-quarter performance that led to a slew of price target upgrades. The stock was up almost 10% midday.

"Activision released its best Q4 results ever driven by strength in its core franchises, the successful release of new content, and shelter-in-place tailwinds," Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said in a note.

On vaccine news, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) rose almost 2% after the drugmaker sought approval from the US drug regulator for Emergency Use Authorization for its single-shot coronavirus vaccine candidate. In contrast, the vaccines from Pfizer (PFE) and its partner, BioNTech (BNTX), and Moderna (MRNA) need a second shot and to be shipped frozen. All three stocks were also higher.

On the energy front, oil prices were higher, with US West Texas Intermediate up 0.9% to $56.76 a barrel and Brent crude 0.8% higher to $59.33 a barrel amid producers' pledges to output cuts. Natural gas price rose 0.5% to $2.95 per 1 million British thermal units. Oil majors rose, with Exxon Mobil (XOM), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Chevron (CVX) all higher.

Among the gainers, Aurora Mobile Limited (JG) jumped 53% on partnership deal with short-video app company Kuaishou Technology, a Tiktok rival backed by China's Tencent, to use its technologies to improve advertising targets. Magnite (MGNI) rose 26% on deal to buy SpotX for $1.17 billion in a cash and stock deal. T2 Biosystems (TTOO) added 37% after saying its test kit is capable of detecting the Brazil variant of the COVID-19 virus.

On the losing side, Spero Therapeutics (SPRO) fell 16% after the US Food and Drug Administration put a hold on its phase 2a trial of SPR720 in patients with nontuberculous mycobacterial pulmonary disease. Document Security (DSS) slumped 27% after pricing its $34.5 million stock offering at $2.80 per share, against its Thursday's closing price of $2.80.

In the precious metals markets, gold was up 1.4% to $1,815.30 an ounce, and Silver added 3.0% to $27.02 an ounce. Copper was up 1.4% to $360.30 per pound.

Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund was up 0.9% to $38.16 while the United States Natural Gas Fund eased 0.2% to $10.81. Among precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF was up 1.1% to $34.31 and SPDR Gold Shares added 1.2% to $170.10. The iShares Silver Trust rose 2.5% to $25.09.