WASHINGTON >> U.S. stocks are higher today after a slightly weak jobs report reassures investors that the Federal Reserve probably won’t raise interest rates again soon. Banks are trading higher as bond prices drop, which is sending yields and interest rates higher. Automakers are rising as they report their August sales, and energy and industrial companies are up as well. Stocks are on track for their sixth gain in a row, although trading has been light.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 6 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,478 as of 1:55 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 70 points, or 0.3 percent, to 22,018. The blue chip index had its first change in more than two years on Friday, as longtime Dow component DuPont combined with former rival Dow Chemical to form DowDuPont. The Nasdaq composite added 4 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,432. The Nasdaq is at record highs and on track for its best week of the year as technology and health care companies have surged.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 5 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,410.
Six months ago, stocks made their biggest gain of the year: the S&P 500 jumped 1.4 percent on March 1. Since then, the index has gained just 3.4 percent.
US JOBS: The Labor Department said U.S. job growth slowed in August as employers added 156,000 jobs. That was a bit less than analysts expected, and the agency also trimmed its estimates for hiring over the previous two months. Still, businesses continue to hire workers at a steady pace. Average hourly pay inched higher, and inflation has remained below the Federal Reserve’s target of 2 percent.
The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates three times in the last year. The slightly weaker jobs report may help to convince investors that rates will stay where they are into 2018. The combination of continued economic growth and low interest rates has been good for stocks.
THE QUOTE: “The market is looking at economic news that is below expectations as a sign that the Federal Reserve is not going to do much in terms of interest rate hikes, and the stock market is looking at it as good,” said Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist for Wells Fargo Investment Institute. He said investors don’t think the Fed will stick to its plan of raising rates one more time this year and three times in 2018.
Higher interest rates slow down economic growth, and investors have worried at times that the Federal Reserve would raise rates too fast.
BONDS: Bond prices moved lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.15 percent from 2.12 percent. The increase in bond yields and interest rates gave banks a boost.
STEPPING ON THE GAS: Car makers traded higher as they began to report their monthly sales. U.S. sales were expected to grow slightly in August, which would be their first monthly gain of 2017. General Motors gained $1.10, or 3 percent, to $37.64. Ford picked up 38 cents, or 3.4 percent, to $11.41. Fiat Chrysler gained 77 cents, or 5.1 percent, to $15.90.
FEELING FIT: Clothing company Lululemon climbed after its second-quarter results were better than analysts expected. Investors were also pleased with its profit and revenue forecasts. That suggests the athletic-inspired apparel maker may not be feeling the woes that have affected other sporting goods companies recently. Lululemon stock jumped $3.63, or 6.3 percent, to $61.18.
STORM’S WAKE: Benchmark U.S. crude added 4 cents to $47.27 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, fell 27 cents to $52.59 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline prices, which have surged this week, lost 5 cents, or 2.9 percent.
Wholesale gasoline prices have hit two-year highs because of historic rains and flooding in the Gulf Coast. At least two major pipelines have been slowed or stopped, and oil drilling and refining have also been affected.
It’s not clear how much damage the storm will cause to the region or to the economy, but investors felt at least some companies will benefit: those that will be involved in the cleanup after the flood waters recede. Environmental services company Clean Harbors rose 17 cents to $54.26, and it’s up 5.5 percent this week. Consulting and engineering services company Tetra Tech climbed $1, or 2.3 percent, to $43.60, for a 7.5-percent gain since Friday. Radioactive and hazardous waste services company U.S. Ecology took a small loss, but is up 8.5 percent this week.
METALS: Gold rose $8.20 to $1,330.40 an ounce. Silver jumped 24 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $17.82 an ounce. Copper gained 2 cents to $3.12 a pound.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 110.26 yen from 109.98 yen. The euro slipped $1.1863 to from $1.1903.
OVERSEAS: The French CAC 40 gained 0.7 percent, and so did the DAX in Germany. In Britain, the FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 edged up 0.2 percent and the Kospi in South Korea lost 0.2 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was little changed.