Stocks open higher; S&P 500 heading for a big weekly gain

Stocks are opening higher on Wall Street, keeping the S&P 500 on track for its biggest weekly gain since November. The benchmark index was up 0.4% early Friday. The gains came even after the government reported the latest grim figures on the economy, a gain of just 49,000 jobs last month. Investors remain hopeful that continuing vaccinations will help the economy get on a more even footing over time. They’re also hopeful that more help for the economy is on the way from Washington. Overnight the Senate narrowly passed a measure that will fast-track aid. Treasury yields rose again.

The U.S. report for January is expected to show that employers added 100,000 jobs. That would mark a welcome reversal from a loss in December — the first since April — of 140,000. Still, a gain of that modest size is practically negligible when the economy is nearly 10 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level.

Futures for the Dow and the S&P 500 were both up 0.5% ahead of the release of the data. In Europe, France’s CAC 40 rose 1.1% to 5,670, while Germany’s DAX inched up 0.3% to 14,100. Britain’s FTSE 100 was up about 0.1% to 6,509.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 surged 1.5% to finish at 28,779.19. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 1.1% to 6,840.50, and South Korea’s Kospi climbed 1.1% to 3,120.63. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 0.6% to 29,279.74, while the Shanghai Composite fell 0.2% to 3,496.33.

Asian markets got a lift from positive employment data from the U.S. on Thursday, which has set off a mood of “confidence about the U.S. economy getting back on its feet,” said Venkateswaran Lavanya of Mizuho Bank in Singapore.

A report on Thursday had showed that the number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits fell below 800,000 last week, which was better than economist expectations but still remains high due to the pandemic.

An apparent sign in global data of a gradual decline in COVID-19 cases is also nurturing hopes for a rebound. So are rollouts of COVID-19 vaccines, Lavanya said.

Global investors are watching various company earnings reports. There is also optimism that Washington can reach a deal for another round of fiscal stimulus for millions of Americans.

Financial and technology companies led the way. Small-company stocks also had a strong showing, another bullish signal that investors are feeling more optimistic about the economy.

“There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic and, obviously, there’s a tremendous amount of stimulus in the system with talks of more,” Brian Price, head of investment management for Commonwealth Financial Network.

In Washington, President Joe Biden urged Democrats lawmakers to “act fast” on his economic stimulus plan but also said he’s open to changes. Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on support for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, but investors are betting that the administration will opt for a reconciliation process to get the legislation through Congress.

In energy trading, U.S. benchmark crude added 46 cents to $56.69 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 54 cents to $56.23 per barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, added 54 cents to $59.38 a barrel.

In currencies, the dollar was trading at 105.66 Japanese yen, up from 105.54 yen. The euro cost $1.1983, up from $1.1967.