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* Consumer sentiment picks up in December

* U.S. job growth beats estimates in November

* Honeywell slips after buyout deal for Carrier unit

* Indexes: S&P 500 +0.28%, Nasdaq +0.35%, Dow +0.26%

Dec 8 (Reuters) -

The S&P 500 rose in choppy trade on Friday, briefly touching a four-month high, following a strong U.S. jobs report that fueled investor optimism about a soft landing for the economy.

Investors pared

bets

that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates in March after a Labor Department report

showed

nonfarm payrolls increased by 199,000 jobs in November, compared with an estimated increase of 180,000.

The unemployment rate slipped to 3.7%, while average earnings edged up to 0.4% on a monthly basis, compared with forecasts of 0.3% growth.

Interest rate futures show traders widely expect the Federal Reserve to hold interest rates steady at its meeting next week, according to the CME FedWatch tool. However, futures prices now imply traders mostly expect the Fed to start cutting rates in May, two months later than the March meeting many investors had been betting on in recent days.

"The drop in the unemployment rate in particular will assuage any concerns of a recession, and with payrolls and earnings both rising, it keeps the ‘soft landing’ narrative very much in the ascendancy," said Stuart Cole, head macro economist at Equiti Capital in London.

"The report will likely see some of those forecasting an early Fed cut next year re-evaluating their positions," Cole said.

Nvidia rose 2.1% and Meta Platforms added 1.3%.

Shares of Google-parent Alphabet dipped 1.5%, giving up gains after an AI-led rally in the previous session.

Other data showed U.S. consumer sentiment

perked up much more than expected

in December, snapping four straight months of declines.

Robust quarterly reports and optimism that the Fed has finished raising rates have fueled steady gains in the U.S. stock market since late October.

The S&P 500 rose as much as 0.45%, its highest since July, before surrendering some gains. It was last up 0.28% at 4,598.59 points.

The Nasdaq gained 0.35% to 14,390.60 points, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.26% at 36,212.02 points.

Of the 11 S&P 500 sector indexes, seven rose, led by energy, up 0.86%, followed by a 0.74% gain in information technology.

Honeywell dipped 1.5% after the industrial firm said it would buy air conditioner maker Carrier Global's security business for $4.95 billion. Carrier's shares rose almost 4%.

Paramount Global soared 14% after reports of takeover interest in the media company. Peer Warner Bros Discovery jumped 6.6%.

DocuSign added 5.8% after the e-signature product provider raised its annual forecast for revenue.

Advancing issues outnumbered falling ones within the S&P 500 by a 1.2-to-one ratio.

(Reporting by Amruta Khandekar and Shristi Achar A in Bangalore, and by Noel Randewich in Oakland, Calif.; Editing by Anil D'Silva and David Gregorio)