NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bond yields and the U.S. dollar fell on Friday after a report showed U.S. jobs growth was less than expected in August, adding to uncertainty over when the Federal Reserve will begin to trim its massive bond-buying program.
Wall Street stocks ended little changed, giving up much of the day’s earlier gains on lingering concerns about a U.S. military strike against Syria, though all three major U.S. stock indexes posted gains for the week.
At the same time, Syria worries drove up U.S. crude oil prices more than $2 a barrel to their highest level in more than two years.
Gold prices, which have benefited from ultra-cheap central bank liquidity, also climbed after the U.S. jobs data.
U.S. employers hired fewer workers than expected in August and the jobless rate hit a 4-1/2-year low as Americans gave up the search for work, complicating the Federal Reserve’s decision on whether to scale back its massive monetary stimulus this month.
Policymakers are widely expected to make an announcement on the bond program when they meet September 17-18, and Friday’s data caused some investors to wonder whether the Fed will trim its bond purchases by as much as earlier expected.
The Federal Reserve has said it would begin to reduce its $85 billion a month worth of bond purchases depending on improvement in the U.S. labor market.
“Perhaps the economy is not as strong as it seemed a few months ago,” said Daniel Heckman, senior fixed income strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Kansas City, Missouri. “That adds to the indecision about whether the Fed will taper in September or decide to do it in December.”
A Reuters poll, however, showed a majority of U.S. primary dealers expect the Fed to announce this month that it will cut the size of its bond purchases. <ID:W1N0G700U>
Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes rose 16/32 in price, after surging more than a point moments after the payroll data and their yields fell to as low as 2.864 percent before retracing back to 2.936 percent.
The 10-year yield had touched 3.007 percent overnight, a level not seen since July 2011.
Benchmark German Bund yields fell sharply on Friday after the weak U.S. jobs report. German ten-year yields posted their biggest daily fall since February, but the move only reversed Thursday’s rise driven by an improving economic outlook and by the lack of European Central Bank action against rising market rates.
Bund yields fell 9 basis points to 1.945 percent, having risen to a 1-1/2 high of 2.059 percent at the start of the session. They were still roughly 10 basis points higher on the week.
The U.S. dollar fell from a seven-week high against the euro.
The euro was last up 0.5 percent at $1.3180 and the dollar was down 1 percent against the yen at 99.11 yen. The dollar index .DXY was down 0.6 percent, not far from a recent seven-week peak of 82.671.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was down 14.98 points, or 0.10 percent, at 14,922.50. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX was up 0.09 points, or 0.01 percent, at 1,655.17. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was up 1.23 points, or 0.03 percent, at 3,660.01.
For the week, the Dow rose 0.8 percent, the S&P 500 gained 1.4 percent and the Nasdaq increased 2 percent.
MSCI's world share index .MIWD00000PUS, which tracks 45 countries, was up 0.4 percent, while the FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 ended up 0.5 percent.
European and U.S. stocks briefly retreated early in the U.S. session after Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to assist Syria. Yet Putin made clear that Russia did not want to be sucked into a war over Syria.
U.S. crude oil futures rose on concerns a possible strike against Syria would cause oil prices to spike. U.S. President Barack Obama resisted pressure on Friday to abandon plans for air strikes against Syria and enlisted the support of 10 fellow leaders for a “strong” response to a chemical weapons attack.
The U.S. Congress will vote next week on President Barack Obama’s proposal to launch a missile strike against Syria.
The United States tightened security at diplomatic missions in Lebanon and Turkey on Friday because of potential threats, ordering personnel out of Lebanon and offering to evacuate those in Adana in southeastern Turkey.
“The escalation of the rhetoric and tension has certainly gotten the crude oil market’s attention,” said Andy Lebow, vice president with Jefferies Bache in New York.
U.S. crude oil for October delivery settled up 2.0 percent, or $2.16 per barrel, at $110.53. The last time crude oil futures settled above that level was on May 3, 2011, at $111.05.
Brent oil, which has already priced in geopolitical concern over Syria, settled up 86 cents per barrel at $116.12.
Despite Friday’s rally, gold ended the week 0.5 percent lower for a second consecutive weekly loss as its safe-haven appeal dropped on a lack of progress about possible U.S. military strikes against Syria.
Spot gold was up 1.5 percent to $1,387.46 an ounce.
U.S. unemployment: link.reuters.com/wam54t
U.S. payrolls gap: link.reuters.com/kem54t
U.S. Treasury yields: link.reuters.com/gar98t
Labor market in graphics: r.reuters.com/qum86s
Additional reporting by Ellen Freilich, Nick Olivari, Clara Denina and Herbert Lash in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Chizu Nomiyama