NEW YORK — The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 746 points on strong employment news and reassurances from Fed chairman, erasing Thursday’s plunge.
Hopes for progress in the U.S.-China trade dispute, a strong report on the U.S. jobs market and encouraging comments from the head of the U.S. central bank about its interest rate policy all combined to cheer investors.
China’s Commerce Ministry said trade talks will be held Monday and Tuesday in Beijing, and investors will once again look for signs the world’s largest economic powers will make progress toward resolving their dispute. The tensions have dragged on for nearly a year, slowing business and dragging down stock indexes worldwide.
Meanwhile the Labor Department said U.S. employers added 312,000 jobs last month, a far stronger result than experts had anticipated. U.S. stocks have tumbled over the last three months as investors worried that the economy might slow down dramatically because of a variety of challenges including the trade dispute and rising interest rates.
The stock market’s plunge also threatened to shake up the confidence and the spending plans of businesses and consumers. Some analysts said investors were acting as if a recession was on the horizon, despite a lack of evidence that the U.S. economy is struggling.
“It’s hard to square recession worries with the strongest job growth we’ve seen in years,” said Alec Young, managing director of global markets research for FTSE Russell.
Stocks rose even further after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank will be flexible in deciding if and when it raises interest rates. He added that the Fed is open to making changes in the way it shrinks its giant portfolio of bonds, which affects rates on long-term loans such as mortgages.
Until recently, the Fed had suggested it planned to raise short-term interest rates three times this year and next, and Powell said the Fed’s balance sheet was shrinking “on auto-pilot.” Wall Street feared that the Fed might be moving too fast in raising borrowing costs, said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors.
The Fed’s interest-rate and bond portfolio policies “were at the top of the list of things we were concerned about, which is why the statement Powell made today is so supportive of the market,” Orlando said. “The Fed understands that what they attempted to communicate last month was inartful, that they didn’t get the right message across, and Powell tried to reset.”