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Nasdaq leads Wall St lower after robust November jobs data

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U.S. stock indexes fell on Friday, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq leading losses, as higher-than-expected job additions in November reignited investor concerns about the Federal Reserve continuing on its path of aggressive monetary policy tightening.

The Labor Department’s jobs report showed nonfarm payrolls rose by 263,000, compared with an estimated 200,000, as U.S. employers hired more workers than expected in November and raised wages despite mounting worries of a recession.

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The U.S. unemployment rate remained unchanged, as expected.

“Strong job creation and a big increase in wages underscore the Fed’s argument that a lot more work needs to be done to get inflation under control,” said James Knightley, chief international economist at ING.

“Adding to the Fed’s problems, monetary conditions have loosened in recent weeks as the dollar and longer-dated Treasury yields have fallen and credit spreads have narrowed. This is undoing the tightening effects of the Fed’s recent rate rises.”

Knightley forecast further 50-basis point rate hikes in December and February, with the potential for tightening needing to go on for longer, according to him.

The strong jobs report has left investors rethinking the euphoric rally on Wednesday, sparked by Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s comments on scaling back interest rates hikes as early as December.

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“We continue to think the market is ahead of itself anticipating Fed easing in late 2023,” Mike Schumacher, global head of macro strategy at Wells Fargo Corporate & Investment Banking, said.

The rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee meets on Dec. 13-14, capping a volatile year that saw the central bank respond to the fastest outbreak of inflation since the 1980s, with the fastest increase in interest rates since then to try to offset it.

At 12:12 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 71.82 points, or 0.21%, at 34,323.19, the S&P 500 was down 18.28 points, or 0.45%, at 4,058.29, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 80.53 points, or 0.70%, at 11,401.92.

Despite Friday’s weakness, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq are on track to end their second straight week higher, while the Dow looks set for a muted end to the week.

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Information technology shares bore the brunt of selling pressure among the 11 S&P 500 sector indexes, and were down 1.2%.

Growth and technology companies such as Apple Inc and Nvidia Corp fell 1.2% and 2.7%, respectively, as Treasury yields recovered, pressuring rate-sensitive megacap stocks.

Ford Motor Co slipped 1.3% on lower vehicle sales in November, while DoorDash Inc lost 2.5% after RBC downgraded the food delivery firm’s stock.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.37-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.06-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 15 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 46 new highs and 72 new lows. (Reporting by Ankika Biswas, Bansari Mayur Kamdar and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Shubham Batra and Shashwat Chauhan; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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