'Goldilocks' jobs data propels Wall St. to best day since August

(Reuters) - Wall Street surged on Friday after moderate jobs growth in September offered relief from a spate of dismal economic data this week that has rankled markets and fueled concerns that the world’s largest economy may be sliding into a recession.

A rally in technology stocks led by Apple Inc AAPL.O also helped lift the benchmark indexes at the end of a rollercoaster week. After losing about 3% over Tuesday and Wednesday, the S&P 500 .SPX on Friday logged its biggest one-day gain since Aug. 16, thanks in part to a late-session surge.

Still, for a third consecutive week the Dow and S&P 500 lost ground.

The Labor Department’s report showed nonfarm payrolls increased by 136,000 last month and the unemployment rate dropped to a 50-year low, but manufacturing payrolls declined for the first time in six months.

“It’s sort of a Goldilocks report: it’s not strong enough to move the Federal Reserve away from cutting rates at the end of October, but it’s not weak enough to make you concerned about the labor market or the consumer,” said Shawn Snyder, head of investment strategy at Citi Personal Wealth Management in New York.

Bets that the Fed will cut interest rates have surged this week after a dramatic contraction in U.S. manufacturing, cooling private sector hiring, and a fall in service sector activity pointed to widening fallout from the U.S.-China trade war.

Traders see a 77.5% chance that the central bank will lower borrowing costs at its policy meeting later this month, up from 40% on Monday. The Fed cut rates in September for the second time this year and said future reductions would be “data-dependent.”

With fears related to the trade war and its effect on the U.S. economy weighing on sentiment, the S&P 500 is up 2% over the past 12 months, and about 2% off its record high close in July.

“Although market participants have been selling stocks and buying bonds, at the end of the day you say, ‘Gee, I still have to have some return for my investment, and that’s going to come from stocks,’” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager at GLOBALT Investments.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Apple Inc AAPL.O shares rose 2.8% after a report that the company would ramp up production of iPhone 11 models.

The S&P information technology index .SPLRCT climbed 1.7%, while the Philadelphia chip index .SOX advanced 1.9%.

All 11 major sector indexes rose, led by a 1.9% jump in the S&P financials .SPSY.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI jumped 1.42% to close at 26,573.72 points, while the S&P 500 .SPX also surged 1.42%, finishing at 2,952.01.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 1.4% to end at 7,982.47.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was light at 5.9 billion shares, compared with the 7.3 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

For the week, the S&P 500 fell 0.3%, the Dow lost 0.9% and the Nasdaq added 0.5%.

During Friday's session, HP Inc HPQ.N tumbled 9.6% after the computer maker said it would cut up to 16% of its workforce as part of a restructuring plan that would result in an overall charge of $1 billion.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 3.12-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.26-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 18 new 52-week highs and 1 new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 17 new highs and 70 new lows.

Additional reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru and Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Bill Berkrot