Stocks are flat as U.S.-China tensions and stimulus uncertainty offset strong jobs report

Stimulus talks

Meanwhile, the White House struggle to agree on a new stimulus package after a $600 per week enhanced federal unemployment benefit expired at the end of July.

The Trump administration has threatened to pull out of talks and try to address jobless benefits and the eviction moratorium by executive action if the sides fail to reach an agreement by Friday. Top lawmakers told CNBC Thursday that they expect a compromise to be hatched but big differences still remain.

Talks between negotiators ended Thursday evening without a breakthrough in sight as discussions edged closer to the Trump administration’s Friday deadline for striking an agreement. White House officials criticized Democrats as uncompromising while Democrats argued that the GOP failed to appreciate the severity of the recession.

“We’re still a considerable amount apart in terms of a compromise that could be signed into law,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said of the meetings. 

“We’re very far apart,” said Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

U.S. jobs report easily tops expectations. 

The U.S. economy added 1.763 million jobs in July, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected a gain of 1.4 million. The U.S. unemployment rate was also better than expected, falling to 10.2%. The jobs reports for June and May were also revised sharply higher. 

Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors, said the report is a welcomed surprise for investors as “expectations of a negative jobs print had been hanging over investors for the past month.” However, Shah added Friday’s number does not “imply economic conditions are significantly improved.”

“It simply suggests the labor market was static in July, showing no signs of renewed weakness that the increase in COVID-19 cases had threatened,” she said. “Nonetheless, with Congress failing to agree on a new fiscal stimulus package yet, the risk is that a policy failure drains the tentative strength that had been creeping back into the economy in recent months.”

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