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The bears have been in the driver’s seat in the S&P 500 index futures so far this year, but not without the bulls fighting back for the first Friday of 2024.

The premarket session initially continued the downward trend, hinting at another potential red open. However, the release of December’s US employment report at 8:30am EST marked a turning point. The report showed an addition of 216k jobs, surpassing the expected 170k, and an unemployment rate of 3.7%, slightly better than the anticipated 3.8%. This positive surprise spurred the bulls into action.

The market’s response was swift, with the index climbing steadily and even opening the regular session slightly in the green. The bullish momentum carried the index near Thursday’s high before 11am. However, this ascent drew out sellers who capitalized on the morning rally, pushing the index back into the red by the lunch hour.

Throughout the remainder of the session, the index oscillated between green and red, ultimately closing up by a modest 5.25 handles at 4734.75. This slight uptick narrowly snapped a five-day losing streak, concluding the week with an overall loss of 78 handles or 1.6%.

In the top components of the index, NVIDIA Corp. (NASDAQ: NVDA) emerged as the leading gainer for the second consecutive day. The semiconductor giant recorded another rise, up $10.99 or 2.29%, closing at $490.97. 

This performance significantly outshone the cash index’s modest gain of 0.16%.

Conversely, UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) registered as the session’s biggest loser among the top components. Reversing its earlier weekly gains, the healthcare company declined by $8.04 or 1.47%, ending the day at $537.38.