U.S. stock market index futures fell Thursday after private payroll data showed the labor market is still strong amid the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes to tame inflation. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 158 points, or 0.47%. S&P 500 Nasdaq 100 futures slipped 0.48% and 0.48%, respectively. U.S. stock futures fell after the ADP private payrolls report showed that employers added 235,000 jobs in December, well above economist estimates. Wages also increased more than anticipated, another sign that the labor market remains hot. “This is what the Fed keeps harping on and why they want to keep hiking rates and to leave them elevated all year,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakely Financial Group. The moves follow a choppy trading session as traders pored over a mixed bag of economic data. November’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover, or JOLTS, report showed the job market remained strong, bolstering concerns that the Fed could continue raising interest rates as long as there remained a hot market for workers. But the ISM manufacturing index showed the sector was contracting after 30 months of expansion, which investors saw as a positive indicator that previous rate hikes had the intended impact of cooling the economy. Meanwhile, the minutes from the Fed’s December meeting showed the central bank remained committed to higher interest rates for “some time.” Investors have “wounds that are still fresh” following 2022, which brought the worst year for the stock market since 2008, said Keith Buchanan, a portfolio manager at GLOBALT Investments. He said investors are attempting to balance what each new piece of economic data or Fed commentary can indicate with broader concerns about the future. “Every day that goes by and we get a data point that’s moving in the right direction, it’s positive,” Buchanan said. “But it’s also quickly followed up with apprehension on how sensitive and delicate this moment is.” Investors will watch Thursday for more data on jobs, the trade deficit and business activity. Fed speakers Raphael Bostic and James Bullard are also both slated to speak. On Friday, investors will review the December jobs report for updated data on employment and hourly wages. Since the report could have a big impact on the Fed’s next moves, it has the potential to impact the market. Investors don’t want to see big gains in wage growth, which could signal higher inflation. Asia-Pacific markets climbed as investors shrug off the U.S. Federal Reserve’s commitment to higher interest rates in tackling inflation. Mainland China’s Shenzhen Component was up 2.13%, closing at 11,332.01 while the Shanghai Composite rose 1.01% to 3,155.22. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index jumped 1.38% in its final hour of trade, paring some of its earlier gains of more than 2%, as investors digested an improved reading in China’s Caixin services Purchasing Managers’ Index for December. Hong Kong’s S&P Purchasing Managers’ Index also showed eased pressure in the factory activity. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 ended fractionally higher at 7,063.6. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was up 0.40% at 25,820.8, while the Topix added 0.04% to close at 1,868.9. The Kospi rose 0.38% to end at 2,264.65 and the Kosdaq lost 0.55% to close at 679.92. Oil rebounded over 2% on Thursday after posting the biggest two-day loss for the start of a year in three decades with the shutdown of a U.S. fuel pipeline providing support, though economic concerns capped gains. Big declines in the previous two days were driven by worries about a global recession, especially since short-term economic signs in the world’s two biggest oil consumers, the United States and China, looked weak. Helping drive the gains on Thursday was a statement from top U.S. pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline, which said late on Wednesday its Line 3 had been shut for unscheduled maintenance with a restart expected on Jan. 7. Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM said the rebound was due to the pipeline shutdown and added: “There is no doubt that the prevailing trend is down; it is a bear market.” Brent crude was up $1.63, or 2.1%, to $79.47 a barrel at 1306 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude gained $1.41, or 1.9%, to $74.25. Gold prices slipped on Thursday from a near seven-month peak, as the dollar steadied and investors squared positions ahead of the closely watched U.S. jobs data that could influence the Federal Reserve’s rate-hike path. Spot gold fell 0.5% to $1,845.58 per ounce, after hitting its highest since June 13 in the previous session. U.S. gold futures also edged 0.4% lower to $1,852.00.
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