Stocks rise after better-than-expected jobs report

NEW YORK — Stocks rose today after the government's employment report showed fewer jobs were cut in February than expected.

The Labor Department's monthly report is widely seen as the most important economic indicator because employment is considered a key ingredient for a strong, sustained recovery.

Employers cut 36,000 jobs last month, better than the 50,000 cuts forecast by economists polled by Thomson Reuters. The unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent. Economists were expecting it to rise to 9.8 percent.

Overseas markets rose after a successful bond sale by debt-burdened Greece and upbeat signs in the U.S. economy. Budget and debt problems in Greece have dogged the markets in recent months.

Friday's gains on top of a late-day rally in stocks Thursday indicates that investors are optimistic the U.S. economy is improving. Though employers aren't yet adding full-time staff, jobs growth is fundamental to a recovery because it puts money in more workers pockets, allowing them to increase spending. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity.


In morning trading Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 53.66, or 0.5 percent, to 10,497.80. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 5.91, or 0.5 percent, to 1,128.88, while the Nasdaq composite index added 11.15, or 0.5 percent, to 2,303.46.

Signs of future jobs growth were encouraging in the report. Temporary workers, which are often seen as a precursor to employers adding full-time staff, rose 48,000 last month. Average hourly earnings rose by 3 cents to $22.46.

The Labor Department wouldn't quantify if severe snowstorms that pummeled the East Coast last month had any impact on the report. Economists estimated before the report that the storms could inflate job losses by 100,000 or more.

In corporate news, shares of Apple Inc. jumped after the company said its much-anticipated iPad table computer will hit store shelves on April 3. Its shares rose $5.87, or 2.8 percent, to $216.58.

Major indexes advanced Thursday thanks to a late-day rally heading into the monthly jobs report. Other economic reports continued to paint a mixed picture for the economy.

Retailers reported surprisingly strong retail sales for February, led by companies like Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Nordstrom Inc. and Target Corp. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. raised its dividend 11 percent.

However, the National Association of Realtors' index of pending home sales fell unexpectedly by 7.6 percent in January from December. Sales contracts fell to their lowest level since April, indicating that one of the country's most battered sectors is still struggling.

The Dow rose 0.5 percent and is now higher for the year. The S&P 500 climbed 0.4 percent.


Meanwhile, bond prices fell. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 3.67 percent from 3.61 percent late Thursday.

The dollar rose against other major currencies after the jobs report. Gold and oil rose as well.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 3.34, or 0.5 percent, to 655.81.

Overseas, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.8 percent, Germany's DAX index gained 0.7 percent, and France's CAC-40 rose 1.2 percent. Japan's Nikkei stock average surged 2.2 percent.

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