* U.S. nonfarm payrolls surprisingly weak in December
* Treasury debt prices gain, while Wall Street stocks mostly dip
* China exports miss forecasts, but imports up strongly
* Gold gains while dollar edges down
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, Jan 10 (Reuters) - U.S. government debt prices jumped while the dollar and the S&P 500 dipped on Friday as weaker-than-expected jobs growth in December cast some doubt on the U.S. economic outlook.
Analysts said the setback was affected by unusually cold weather and was likely to be temporary, though it was enough to raise some questions about the next move from the Federal Reserve.
The data helped support the view the U.S. central bank, which last month announced it would begin scaling back its massive stimulus program, will take a gradual approach to reducing its bond-buying program this year.
“Since economic momentum had seemed to be picking up, there were real concerns that tapering would become more aggressive throughout the year - fears that this report have washed away,” said Alec Young, global equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ in New York.
“People are hoping this is an anomaly, and it seems like it was related to the weather, but if it is a trend, then that is a real threat to GDP and corporate earnings growth.”
U.S. nonfarm payrolls rose just 74,000 in December, the smallest increase in nearly three years and far below the 196,000 forecast by economists. The unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage point to 6.7 percent, but this in part reflected people leaving the labor force.
On Wall Street, U.S. stocks were flat to slightly lower, while the MSCI world equity index was up 0.3 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 31.22 points or 0.19 percent, to 16,413.54, the S&P 500 lost 0.49 points or 0.03 percent, to 1,837.64 and the Nasdaq Composite added 2.66 points or 0.06 percent, to 4,158.854.
In the U.S. bond market, benchmark 10-year Treasury notes last traded 21/32 higher in price with a yield of 2.886 percent, down 8 basis points from late on Thursday. The 10-year yield touched a session low of 2.871 percent after hitting a near 2-1/2-year high of 3.041 percent last week.
November’s payrolls figures were revised higher, however, and the possibility that winter weather had affected the report had some investors thinking the December numbers will be revised later as well.
The dollar fell broadly following the jobs report. Against the yen, the dollar last traded at 104.44 yen, down 0.7 percent and below the session’s high of 105.12 yen.
A dollar index was down 0.5 percent.
“It was clearly a disappointing number and the markets are reflecting that disappointment by selling the dollar across the board,” said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington, D.C.
The central bank announced in December that it would trim its monthly purchases of bonds to $75 billion from $85 billion, and many economists had expected it to decide on a similar-sized cut at its next meeting on Jan. 28-29.
Gold rose around 1 percent, with spot gold rising as much as 1.4 percent to a session high of $1,244.90 an ounce, and last up 1.3 percent to $1,243.40.
Oil futures also rose, rallying from the previous session’s 8-month low. In New York, oil last traded 65 cents higher at $92.31 a barrel. Brent crude oil futures were last up 44 cents at $106.83.
In contrast to the Fed, the European Central Bank has kept holding out the prospect of yet more stimulus.
On Thursday, ECB President Mario Draghi underlined his determination to act should deflation become a real risk or rising money rates threaten a fragile recovery.
Renewed upward pressure on the latter was avoided on Friday as despite an enforced year-end break, euro zone banks posted back just 2.6 billion euros of their ultra-cheap ECB LTRO loans, compared with 20 billion euros last time around.
European stocks closed up 0.4 percent, boosted by a string of strong corporate updates.
Asian markets had remained soggy overnight after China trade data proved to be a mixed bag. While exports grew a little less than expected at 4.3 percent in December from a year earlier, China’s imports easily outpaced forecasts with an increase of 8.3 percent.
The jump in imports could point to stronger domestic demand and a rebalancing away from a reliance on exports to fuel growth, a sea change long desired by policymakers everywhere.