Summary

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq notched their best weekly gains in more than a year on Friday as technology stocks helped lift major indexes to records.

With the New Year’s Day holiday falling on a Monday this year, it was the strongest first four trading days to a year in more than a decade for all three major indices, according to Reuters data. For the Dow, it was the strongest start since 2003 and for the Nasdaq and S&P 500 it was the strongest since 2006.

Last month’s tax reform bill that includes hefty corporate tax cuts helped to fuel late-year gains and was the first major legislative victory in the current administration’s pro-growth agenda in a year.

The equity markets have been adding to the momentum from 2017, driven by a series of strong economic reports from across the globe and expectations for strong fourth-quarter earnings, with all three major indexes hitting milestones in the last few days. The Dow broke above 25,000 for the first time on Thursday, while the S&P closed above 2,700 on Wednesday and the Nasdaq settled above 7,000 earlier in the week.

Job growth slowed more than expected in December, amid a decline in retail employment, however a gain in monthly wages was a harbinger of labor market strength. Non-farm payrolls increased by 148,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said. The weaker-than-expected December jobs data is indicative of gradual interest rate hikes in 2018 being the norm.

The S&P technology index’s 1.2-percent gain led the advancers among the 11 major S&P sectors, with gains in Microsoft, Apple and Alphabet raising the index. The year’s strong start follows a surprisingly sharp rally in 2017 that ended with the S&P 500 up 19.4 percent on the year.

For the week, the Dow was up 2.3 percent, the S&P 500 chalked up a 2.6 percent gain and the Nasdaq was up 3.4 percent. Those were the largest weekly gains for the S&P and Nasdaq since December of 2016.

Approximately 6.3 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, the same as the 6.3 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Weaker Jobs Number

Payrolls rose by 148,000, compared with the 190,000 median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg, held back by a drop in retail positions, a Labor Department report showed Friday.

The jobless rate was at 4.1 percent for a third month, while average hourly earnings increased by 2.5 percent from a year earlier, after a 2.4 percent gain in November that was revised downward.

The job gains, while less than forecast, bring the 2017 total to 2.06 million jobs — below 2016 but slightly more than analysts had been expecting at the start of Donald Trump’s first year as president. With the economy at or near maximum employment, one of the Federal Reserve’s goals, the figures likely keep the Fed on track for continued gradual interest-rate hikes in 2018.

While payroll increases have slowed over the past few years as the labor market tightens, job gains above 100,000 a month could continue downward pressure on the jobless rate.

The breakdown of December data across industries showed solid gains of 30,000 in construction and 25,000 in manufacturing. Retailers cut 20,300 positions during the height of the holiday-shopping season, bringing total gains among service providers to 91,000, down from 176,000 in November.

Revisions to prior reports subtracted a total of 9,000 jobs from payrolls in the previous two months, according to the report. November’s reading was revised upward to 252,000 from 228,000.

Average hourly earnings rose 0.3 percent from the prior month following a downwardly revised 0.1 percent gain, the report showed.

Among other details of the report, the participation rate was unchanged at 62.7 percent in December. The rate, which is hovering near the lowest level since the 1970s, has nevertheless held steady in the past year. Fed Chair Janet Yellen has said that’s a positive sign, because the rate is under downward pressure due to Baby Boomer workers who are retiring.

Steady household demand and a pickup in capital investment, backed by elevated consumer and business sentiment and improving global demand bodes well for employment in 2018.

Time will tell whether the economic strength — along with the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul signed in December — translates into bigger wage gains, which have proven elusive during the expansion.

The Trump administration argues that tax cuts for corporations will help increase productivity and boost pay for rank-and-file employees. That would in turn aid consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy.

The U-6 underemployment rate rose to 8.1 percent from 8 percent; measure includes part-time workers who’d prefer a full-time position and people who want a job but aren’t actively looking.

People working part-time for economic reasons rose by 64,000 to 4.92 million 

Private payrolls rose by 146,000 (median estimate was 193,000) after increasing 239,000; government payrolls advanced by 2,000.

Average workweek for all workers unchanged at 34.5 hours (matching median estimate)

Number of people out of work for 27 weeks or longer, or the so-called long-term unemployed, fell as a share of all jobless to 22.9 percent from 23.9 percent.

In annual revisions to data based on the household survey, the unemployment rate for June 2017 was lowered to 4.3 percent from 4.4 percent; rates for other months during the year were unrevised.