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Market gains moderated by weak jobs data

By Rosie Murray-West

Record opening highs on Wall Street ease after Non-Farm payrolls

World stock markets started today in an exuberant mood, with Wall Street hitting a record opening high thanks to strong performance from tech stocks. However, an economic release showing slower jobs growth in December kept excitement in check.

The Dow Jones Industrial average breached 29,000 for the first time ever in morning trading, while the S&P 500 opened 7.11 points high at 3,281.81.

By mid-morning, the S&P 500 had fallen back and was trading at 3,271.83 after US Non-Farm payroll figures came in lighter than expected. However, not everyone was bearish about the figures.

Robert Alster, head of investment services at Close Brothers Asset Management, said: “Decelerating hiring and wage growth shouldn’t be a cause for concern in the context of the encouragingly tight US labour market. Unemployment is low, and wage growth remains healthily above inflation – this puts more money into consumers’ pockets and supports economic growth.”

Elsewhere, cautious gains continued in many world markets, while others were broadly flat, as traders breathed a sigh of relief at the de-escalation in tensions in the Middle East, as well as optimism that a US and China trade deal will be signed next week.

The FTSE 100 reversed its early gains to close down 0.14 per cent at 7,587.85, despite strong performance from airlines after a bullish update from low-cost carrier Ryanair. IAG, which owns British Airways, was up 4.78 per cent at 664.92p at close of play, while Ryanair itself rose 5.52 per cent to 16.10p.

The German DAX, which closed yesterday at a two-year high, continued to rise. During the day it hit 13,515, against an all-time peak of 13,601. The Hang Seng index closed up 0.27 per cent at 28,638.20, led by Alibaba.

The stock market’s gains were mirrored by continued losses on the price of gold, which has fallen since the de-escalation in tensions between the US and Iran. Spot gold was down 0.2pc at $1,550 an ounce at midday UK time, before bouncing later in the day to $1,559. Oil also continued its slump following the de-escalation of tension and ongoing concerns about oversupply. Crude oil for February 2020 delivery fell to $59.29, down 0.45pc.

Bitcoin was up 2.07pc against the pound at 6,144.44.

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