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Stock futures pared gains Friday morning following the release of the Labor Department’s August jobs report, which showed a sharp deceleration in hiring last month amid the Delta variant’s latest spread.

Contracts on the S&P 500 traded sideways index set a record intraday and closing high during Thursday’s regular trading day. Nasdaq futures outperformed as Treasury yields sank following the weak jobs report, with investors piling back into technology and growth stocks seen as more defensive in a decelerating economic growth environment. Meanwhile the Dow, a proxy for cyclical and reopening stocks, headed toward a lower open.

Investors were closely watching the government’s monthly jobs report. Non-farm payrolls increased by a disappointing 235,000, decelerating from the more than 1 million job gains posted during the previous month, though the unemployment rate ticked down to a fresh pandemic-era low of 5.2%.

The report was consistent with the deceleration evident in other economic data as well, including in retail sales, consumer confidence, and manufacturing- and service-sector purchasing managers’ indices.

Importantly for traders, the jobs report will be the final major labor market datapoint officials at the Federal Reserve receive before their next policy-setting meeting later this month. Members of the Federal Open Market Committee have signaled they are looking especially closely at labor market reports for signs of whether the economy has improved enough to warrant less accommodative monetary policies.

Namely, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in public remarks last week that, “If the economy evolved broadly as anticipated, it could be appropriate to start reducing the pace of asset purchases this year.” This would set off the process of removing one key element of the central bank’s crisis-era toolkit for supporting the economic recovery, and which has also served to underpin equity prices.

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