Wall Street ends mixed after job openings hint at cooling economy

By Noel Randewich and Amruta Khandekar

(Reuters) – Wall Street finished mixed on Tuesday after fresh employment data bolstered bets that the U.S. Federal Reserve will cut interest rates as soon as March.

Wall Street’s most valuable companies rose as Treasury yields dipped to multi-month lows. Nvidia and Apple rose more than 2%, while Amazon.com and Tesla gained more than 1%.

Most S&P 500 sector indexes ended down after data showed U.S. job openings dropped in October to the lowest level since early 2021, indicating that the labor market was easing.

“As interest rates rise and as demand slows, companies are pulling back on job openings, which is essentially what the Fed wants,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research in New York.

“The Fed probably is done raising rates, and the only question outstanding is when they start to cut,” Stovall said.

Another report showed U.S. services sector activity picked up in November.

The S&P 500 declined 0.06% to end the session at 4,567.18 points.

The Nasdaq gained 0.31% to 14,229.91 points, while Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.22% to 36,124.56 points.

The small-cap Russell 2000 index fell 1.4%, ending a four-day winning streak.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was relatively heavy, with 11.9 billion shares traded, compared to an average of 10.6 billion shares over the previous 20 sessions.

Of the 11 S&P 500 sector indexes, eight declined, led lower by energy, down 1.7%, followed by a 1.37% loss in materials.

U.S. stock trading this week has been uneven after the S&P 500 rebounded nearly 9% in November. The index on Friday touched a four-month intra-day high.

Stock market investors widely expect the Fed will keep rates unchanged at its meeting next week. Interest rate futures also suggest a 65% probability of a rate cut by the Fed’s March meeting, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

On Friday, the more comprehensive non-farm payrolls report for November will offer greater clarity on the state of the labor market.

Global markets will be swayed by greater volatility in 2024 as the Fed cuts benchmark interest rates fewer times than futures markets are pricing in, strategists at the BlackRock Investment Institute predicted in a panel discussion.Take-Two Interactive Software dipped 0.5% after a trailer of the latest installment of its best-selling “Grand Theft Auto” videogame franchise was released.

CVS Health jumped 3.7% after forecasting 2024 revenue above Wall Street estimates, as the insurer expects to benefit from its expansion into health services.

Declining stocks outnumbered rising ones within the S&P 500 by a 4.5-to-one ratio.

The S&P 500 posted 15 new highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 83 new highs and 69 new lows.

(Reporting by Amruta Khandekar and Shristi Achar A in Bangalore and by Noel Randewich in Oakland, Calif.; Editing by Pooja Desai and Aurora Ellis)