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Dow nears 20,000 barrier as higher wages boost stocks

By Marley Jay Associated Press

NEW YORK – The Dow Jones industrial average is tantalizingly close to the 20,000 mark Friday as U.S. stock indexes close in on all-time highs following a shaky start. The federal government’s December jobs report showed that wages jumped by the largest amount in seven years, though hiring was a bit weaker than expected. Technology and industrial companies are making the biggest gains.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 82 points, or 0.4 percent, to 19,981 as of 2:25 p.m. Eastern time. It traded above 19,999 around 12:40 p.m. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 13 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,281. The Nasdaq composite jumped 48 points, or 0.8 percent, to 5,534. All three indexes are on pace for record closes. The small-cap Russell 2000 index added less than 1 point to 1,372.

JOBS: The Labor Department said U.S. employers added 156,000 jobs in December, slightly less than analysts expected. That follows a private payrolls report Thursday that also didn’t quite meet expectations. However the government said hourly pay jumped 2.9 percent from December 2015, the biggest increase in seven years. Overall, job growth remained steady in 2016 but slowed a bit from 2015.

THE QUOTE: It took a while for investors to decide how they felt about the report. But Sam Stovall, a U.S. equity strategist for S&P Capital IQ, said there was good news for most industries. He said workers are being paid more, but the report won’t push the Federal Reserve to quickly raise interest rates to stave off inflation.

“Consumers are earning a bit more and as a result can spend more,” he said. “But … people are not too worried the Fed will have to slam on the brakes.”

LEADING: Big names in technology moved higher after an initial stumble. Facebook rose $2.80, or 2.3 percent, to $123.47 while Apple gained $1.38, or 1.2 percent, to $117.99. Industrial companies, which have climbed since the presidential election two months ago, also fared well. Machinery and equipment maker Honeywell rose $1.92, or 1.6 percent, to $118.68 and General Electric rose 19 cents to $21.71. Johnson Controls, which makes heating and ventilation systems, climbed $1.12, or 2.7 percent, to $43.06.

BONDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.42 percent from 2.35 percent. Higher bond yields mean higher interest rates, which allow banks to make more money on lending. Banks did better than the rest of the market Friday afternoon. JPMorgan Chase added 39 cents to $86.50. Among other financial firms, Goldman Sachs jumped $4.69, or 1.9 percent, to $246.01.

Companies that pay large dividends, including phone companies, utilities and household goods makers, lagged the market. Those stocks are often compared to bonds because of the steady income they provide. AT&T gave up 82 cents, or 2 percent, to $41.34 and Wal-Mart fell 96 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $68.25.

DAY IN COURT: Amgen climbed and Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals fell after a court moved to block sales of Sanofi and Regeneron’s cholesterol drug Praluent. A federal jury ruled in March that Praluent infringes on two patents that belong to Amgen. Both are costly biotech drugs designed to be injected once or twice a month. Sanofi and Regeneron said they will appeal the ruling, which came from U.S. District Court in Delaware.

Amgen stock gained $4.48, or 2.9 percent, to $157.46 while Regeneron slid $20.42, or 5.4 percent, to $360.50 and Sanofi lost 99 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $40.51.

ICU FALLING: Medical device maker ICU Medical sank as the company said a business it is buying continues to weaken. It agreed to buy an infusion systems business from Pfizer in October. ICU will pay less money, but it said the division’s sales are still falling, so it expects less profit from the deal. Its stock lost $14, or 9.5 percent, to $133.35.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 116.97 yen from 115.62 yen after a dip on Thursday. The euro slipped to $1.0542 from $1.0590.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 1 cents to $53.87 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price oil sold internationally, added 3 cents to $56.92 a barrel in London.

METALS: Gold fell $7.90 to $1,173.40 an ounce. Silver sank 12 cents to $16.52 an ounce. Copper rose 1 cent to $2.55 a pound.

OVERSEAS: The FTSE 100 index in Britain inched up 0.2 percent. It’s risen nine days in a row and is at all-time highs. Germany’s DAX edged up 0.1 percent and the CAC-40 of France rose 0.2 percent. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.3 percent while the Kospi in South Korea added 0.4 percent. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng advanced 0.2 percent.

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