LONDON (AP) — Stock markets were volatile on Friday as weak U.S. jobs figures created uncertainty over whether the Federal Reserve would start to rein in its monetary stimulus this month.
The official “non-farm payrolls” report showed the world’s largest economy added 169,000 jobs in August, about as expected, though it created far fewer in July than previously thought. While the unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent from 7.4 percent, that drop was mainly due to the fact that fewer people were looking for work.
The report is the last major indicator the Fed sees before it decides this month whether or not to pull back on its massive bond-buying program, a stimulus plan that has kept interest rates low and supported stocks for months. Most investors believe the Fed will begin to pull back this month. But Friday’s jobs report makes that slightly less certain.
“August’s Employment Report is a mixed bag that can be used to support an immediate tapering of the Fed’s monthly asset purchases or delaying that move until later this year,” said Paul Ashworth, an analyst of Capital Economics. On balance, he expects the Fed to still begin reducing its stimulus this month.
European stocks initially rallied after the data, but dropped back down as Wall Street opened lower, only to rise again before trading ended Friday. Britain’s FTSE 100 finished the day up 0.23 percent to 6,547.33, while Germany’s DAX was 0.49 percent higher at 8,275.67. France’s CAC-40 rose 1.06 percent at 4,049.19.
On Wall, the Dow was up 0.14 percent at 14,959.06 and the S&P 500 0.2 percent higher at 1,658.48.
Uncertainty also continued to hang over markets relating to Syria’s civil war and whether the U.S. would launch a punitive strike against President Bashar Assad’s regime for a chemical attack against civilians last month. At the G-20 summit of world leaders in Russia this week, President Barack Obama failed to garner much support for military intervention, though he claimed there was a growing recognition that “the world cannot stand idly by.”
Earlier, in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell on profit-taking after four sessions of gains. The benchmark index closed down 1.5 percent at 13,860.81. South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.2 percent to 1,955.31. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose slightly to 5,145.
Stocks in Hong Kong and mainland China have posted gains in recent days after Chinese manufacturing data showed the slowdown in the world’s No. 2 economy is stabilizing.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.1 percent to 22,621.22. The Shanghai index advanced 0.8 percent to 2,139.99. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index rose 0.5 percent to 1,030.76.
Benchmark crude for October delivery was up $1.60 to $109.96 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.14 to close at $108.37 on Thursday.
In currencies, the euro was up 0.4 percent at $1.3169, while the dollar fell to 99.01 yen from 100.14 yen.
Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.