By Caitlin Ostroff and Frances Yoon 

U.S. stock futures held on to modest gains Friday as investors weighed prospects for new fiscal stimulus against data showing a slowdown in the labor market's recovery.

Futures tied to the S&P 500 were up 0.3%, indicating gains in the broader gauge after the New York opening bell. Contracts linked to the tech-heavy Nasdaq-100 were up 0.1%.

Investors are monitoring Covid-19 infections and deaths, as well as new economic data, to assess the outlook for next year and the strength of recovery.

Figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that employers added 245,000 jobs last month, down from the 638,000 jobs added in October and below economists' expectations. The unemployment rate declined to 6.7% from 6.9% in October.

"The jobs report's important," said Tom Hainlin, national investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. "But it just kind of confirms what we're seeing, which is there's only so much recovery we're going to see until we can get the economy fully reopened."

Markets are being driven by news on the spread of the virus, progress towards a vaccine and the potential for additional fiscal stimulus, he said.

Trading in stocks this week has been mixed following last month's rally, when investors cheered progress in Covid-19 vaccines.

"The market is now pausing a little bit, but the underlying story is still intact -- that there is basically a global recovery," said Luca Paolini, chief strategist at Pictet Asset Management. "It is difficult to see what can change this kind of positive outlook for equities."

Newly reported Covid-19 cases in the U.S. hit a record high Thursday, as did deaths reported in a day, as the global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic passed 1.5 million. Hospitalizations also hit a record, with 100,667 people in the U.S. admitted as of Thursday, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

"From a market perspective, it's all about that starting point. Once you see a vaccine allowing stronger returns to activity, it's about how much of a dip you have to recover from," said Hugh Gimber, a strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

Investors are also increasingly optimistic about momentum for a roughly $900 billion compromise Covid-19 relief plan to be pushed through Congress before the Christmas holiday, though differences remain over parts of the proposal.

"If there is an agreement, the message is the Republicans and the Democrats can work together," Mr. Paolini said. "Once the communication lines are established, it's easier to do more if you need it."

Brent crude futures, the global benchmark for oil markets, climbed 0.9% to $49.16 a barrel after OPEC and a group of Russia-led oil producers agreed to increase their collective output by 500,000 barrels a day next month.

The world's biggest producers are betting that the worst of a pandemic-inspired shock to demand is behind them after curtailed travel weighed heavily on oil prices this year.

In offhours trading, shares in DocuSign gained 5.4% after the company provided guidance that topped analysts' expectations. Ulta Beauty shares declined 2.9% after its chief executive said the company is expecting fourth-quarter comparable-store sales to fall between 12% and 14%.

In bond markets, the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note ticked up to 0.946%, from 0.919% on Thursday.

Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.3%. The Nikkei declined 0.2%. The Shanghai Composite was flat.

In Hong Kong, shares of China National Offshore Oil and Semiconductor Manufacturing International dropped over 2% after the U.S. Defense Department added the state oil giant and chip maker to a list of nearly three dozen companies the U.S. says helps the country's military. Overall, the Hang Seng Index rose 0.4%.

The blacklist, which the U.S. launched last month, has hit stocks and bonds of the targeted Chinese companies. Index compilers FTSE Russell, JPMorgan and MSCI are rethinking their stance on these securities targeted by the U.S. government and have been collecting investor feedback.

Karen Langley contributed to this article.

Write to Caitlin Ostroff at and Frances Yoon at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 04, 2020 09:27 ET (14:27 GMT)

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