- Non-farm payrolls rise 175k, ahead of forecasts
- Jobless rate rises to 6.7 per cent
- Gap sales unexpectedly fall
Dow Jones: 0.26%
S&P 500: 0.05%
US markets were mixed in early trading on Friday after the Labor Department revealed employers added more jobs than forecast but the unemployment rate unexpectedly rose.
The US non-farm payrolls report showed jobs increased by 175,000 in February, compared with a revised 129,000 a month earlier, surprising analysts who had predicted 150,000. Revisions to the previous two months of data added a further 25,000 jobs.
The jobless rate increased to 6.7% from 6.6% though this largely reflected a rise in the labour force.
Senior US Economist Paul Dales from Capital Economics said that the data "pretty much guarantees that the Fed will taper its asset purchases further at the mid-March meeting, especially as payrolls would have been stronger if it wasn't for the unusually severe weather".
The report follows unofficial data earlier in the week from ADP which showed that private-sector payrolls rose 139,000 in February falling short of economists' estimates for a gain of 160,000 jobs. Meanwhile, claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 26,000 to a three-month low of 323,000.
The Federal Reserve is monitoring the labour market as it prepares for its next policy meeting on March 18th and 19th.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen has indicated that the central bank is likely to continue reducing monthly asset purchases at each meeting until ending it all together later this year.
In other news on Friday, a report from the Commerce Department showed the US trade deficit widened slightly in January to $39.1bn from December's revised $39bn deficit.
Exports climbed 0.6% to $192.8bn, led by increased sales of US-made machinery, aircraft and medical equipment. Imports also rose 0.6%to $231.6bn, driven by petroleum.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has snubbed a warning from US President Barack Obama over Moscow's military intervention in Crimea.
Following a telephone conversation with Obama, Putin released a statement today saying that Russia could not ignore calls for help from Russian speakers in Ukraine.
Ukraine's interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said the government is ready to talk to Russia, but only if Moscow pulls troop out of Crimea.
Crimea has voted to join Russia and a referendum will be held in nine days, which Obama and Western leaders said would violate Ukraine's constitution.
Gap, H&R Block
Gap declined as the retailer said sales at stores open at least a year unexpectedly fell in February, partly due to the severe weather across the north-east and Midwestern regions of the States. The fashion group said that comparative sales were down 7% year-on-year, while analysts had expected a 1.1% rise.
H&R Block slipped as the tax-preparation company reported a third-quarter loss above what analysts had forecast.
GT Advanced Technologies gained after Credit Suisse upgraded the shares
to 'outperform' from 'neutral'.
Safeway Inc. dropped as Cerberus Capital Management LP's Albertsons agreed to buy the grocery-store operator for about $40 a share in a $9bn deal that may face federal antitrust review.