Traders Brace for Jobs Report

With next week’s Federal Reserve decision on interest rates a coin toss, investors will be watching Friday’s monthly jobs report for a clue as to whether the Fed will finally end its two-year rate-hike campaign.

Economists believe the economy added 145,000 jobs last month, wages crept up 0.3%, and the unemployment rate held steady at 4.6%. A Labor Department report that is stronger or weaker than those expectations could tip the Fed’s hand one way or the other.

Stocks edged higher Thursday ahead of the Friday morning jobs report, as solid retail sales outweighed a number of disappointing earnings reports. IBM’s purchse of MRO Software helped bolster faith in tech stocks.

Brooks Automation , Sina and inTest gained on their earnings reports, but Sprint Nextel led the list of decliners, falling 12% after missing estimates and reporting weak wireless results. Eclipsys also tumbled on its results.

The Nasdaq rose 13 to 2092, the S&P 500 gained 2 to 1280, and the Dow rose 42 to 11,242. Volume rose to 2.73 billion shares on the NYSE, and 1.87 billion on the Nasdaq. Advancers led 19-12 on the NYSE, and 17-12 margin on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 52% on the NYSE, and 60% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 134-81 on the NYSE, and 96-148 on the Nasdaq.

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