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Wall Street reaps modest weekly gains with debt ceiling, key economic data in focus

U.S. equities eked out modest gains for the past week as investors looked to updates on the debt ceiling standoff in Washington, while digesting a slew of key economic readings.

For the week ending Friday, the Dow rose 1.2 percent, while the S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.8 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively.

The S&P U.S. Listed China 50 index, which is designed to track the performance of the 50 largest Chinese companies listed on U.S. exchanges by total market cap, notched a weekly jump of 6.6 percent.

Uncertainty around the U.S. debt ceiling had been a headwind for the market and investors were partly relieved by the recent progress.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday night approved a bill to extend the debt ceiling through early December, after Democrats and Republicans reached a deal to temporarily stave off an economic disaster, following weeks of partisan fighting over the issue.

The agreement came as the Congress faces an Oct. 18 deadline to take action. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently warned that lawmakers have until this date to raise or suspend the debt limit before the federal government will likely run out of cash and extraordinary measures and the United States is expected to default on the national debt.

“While the deal only defers this problem to Dec. 3, when they’ll have to address this once again, it’s a problem we’ll no longer have to deal with now,” Kevin Matras, executive vice president at Zacks Investment Research, said in a note, adding “of course, nothing is done in Washington until it’s done.”

“While nobody was really expecting this to go unresolved and risk a default, one never knows,” he said.

The debt limit, commonly called the debt ceiling, is the total amount of money that the U.S. government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including social security and medicare benefits, interest on the national debt, and other payments.

Wall Street also parsed the latest data to assess the shape of economic recovery.

U.S. employers added 194,000 jobs in September, indicating labor market recovery continues to slow down amid a Delta variant-fueled COVID-19 surge, the U.S. Labor Department reported Friday. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast 500,000 new jobs.

“Job gains continue to be sluggish despite the 5 million shortfall against the pre-pandemic peak and a record number of job openings,” Will Compernolle, senior economist at FHN Financial, said Friday in a note.

“The Delta wave likely impacted labor supply and consumer spending to some extent in September,” said Compernolle.

Meanwhile, a separate report by the Labor Department on Thursday said U.S. initial jobless claims, a rough way to measure layoffs, decreased by 38,000 to 326,000 in the week ending Oct. 2. That was lower than the 345,000 economists had estimated.

On another economic front, U.S. Services PMI (Purchasing Managers’ Index) registered 61.9 percent in September, up 0.2 percentage point from the August reading of 61.7 percent, the Institute for Supply Management reported on Tuesday. The reading topped market expectations.
Source: Xinhua

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