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Markets returned with a vengeance on Friday, shooting higher on the Labor Department's June jobs report, which emphasized a resurgent private sector. While private payrolls surged by more than 200,000, the federal government actually cut 5,000 employees. That made for a 195,000 boost to payrolls, far higher than the roughly 165,000 analysts were looking for. The strength, while it drove stocks higher, stoked the sentiment that quantitative easing efforts will surely begin tapering sometime this year. The S&P 500 Index (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) added 16 points, or 1%, to close at 1,631.
Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM ) was the S&P's biggest laggard, losing 4.3% Friday. The company is a gold and copper miner and, as such, is very sensitive to the ever-changing prices of those metals. Gold especially is thought of and traded as a hedge to a falling dollar, so a stronger greenback usually goes hand in hand with lower gold prices. That was the case again today, as the possibility of fewer Fed dollars flowing into the economy bid the U.S. currency higher. Gold for August delivery fell more than 3% to end just above $1,210.
Prominent homebuilder PulteGroup (NYSE: PHM ) also directly suffered from speculation about further Fed involvement. As bonds sold off, rates rose, and rising rates can have ominous effects on the real estate industry. From a buyer's perspective, if it costs more to borrow money in order to purchase a home, it can cause some understandable hesitation, and even make getting a mortgage financially impossible. PulteGroup, along with every other residential construction company in the S&P homebuilders index, fell today; PulteGroup slipped 2.9%.
Lastly, iron ore and coal miner Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE: CLF ) slumped 2.5% Friday. This stock has been an absolute nightmare for investors in the recent past, falling more than 80% in the last five years alone. But 2012, in particular, was a real doozy for the company, which went from turning a $1.6 billion profit the year before to hemorrhaging more than $930 million in the blink of an eye. Moving forward, the stock remains more than twice as volatile as the market, and until Cliffs can prove it's moving in the right direction, there's no particular reason to believe that volatility should be skyward. The July 25 earnings report would certainly be a good time to make the bullish case, though.
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