Better-than-expected February job growth powered the Dow industrials higher Friday, capping the benchmark's biggest weekly gain in two months.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 67.58 points, or 0.5%, to 14397.07, its sixth-straight daily gain. Blue chips climbed 2.2% on the week, the steepest increase since the week ended Jan. 4.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index added 6.92 points, or 0.4%, to 1551.18, led by consumer-discretionary and industrials shares. For the week, the S&P 500 also added 2.2%. The index has risen every day in March and sits less than 1% from its October 2007 all-time high.
The Nasdaq Composite Index added 12.28 points, or 0.4%, to 3244.37.
Upbeat labor-market data released Friday capped a banner week for bulls. The Dow surpassed its all-time high on Tuesday, and extended in the days since as other data showed an improving jobs picture and expansion in the service sector of the economy. Investors also embraced comments from Federal Reserve officials that suggested no quick end to its support of the economy.
"We've got to see businesses come back, and we've now started to see some evidence of that growth in their spending and now hiring as well," said Jeffrey Kleintop, chief market strategist at LPL Financial, which oversees $350 billion in assets.
U.S. employers added 236,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department reported, well above the 160,000 median forecast of economists in a Dow Jones Newswires poll. The unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 7.7%, the lowest level since the end of 2008. The reading beat economists' median predictions for a 7.8% rate.
"What I took away from it was not only the overall headline number but also the really strong growth we saw in the private sector," said Darrell Cronk, regional chief investment officer for Wells Fargo (WFC)
The 10-year Treasury note fell in price as investors fled safe-haven assets, pushing its yield up to 2.056%. The yield, a measure of borrowing cost for the U.S. government, touched an 11-month intraday high earlier Friday. The dollar rose against the euro and the yen.
Inventories at U.S. wholesale businesses jumped more than expected in January, the Commerce Department reported, a sign that rebuilding stockpiles could add to economic growth.
The Federal Reserve said after Thursday's close that 17 of the 18 largest banks could weather a sharp downturn in the economy with adequate capital. The only bank to fail the "stress test" was government-owned auto lender Ally Financial. Citigroup (C)
J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM)
European markets traded broadly higher, with the Stoxx Europe 600 rising 0.8% to a nearly five-year high, amid the U.S. labor-market reading and encouraging Chinese data. The benchmark gained 2.3% this week, its third-straight weekly increase.
China posted a sharply higher surprise trade surplus in February than economists forecast as the global economy recovered.
Asian markets were mostly higher after the Chinese data. Japanese stocks got a further boost from a weakening yen and data showing the economy grew 0.2% during the fourth quarter, compared with an initial estimate of a 0.4% contraction. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average jumped 2.6% to a 4Â½-year high, with exporter shares cheering the yen's slide against the dollar.
Meanwhile, China's Shanghai Composite slipped 0.2%, ahead of weekend data on industrial production, inflation and retail sales, and Australia's S&P ASX 200 rose 0.3% the highest level since September 2008.
Crude-oil futures rose 0.4% to settle at $91.95 a barrel, and March gold futures ticked up 0.1% to settle at $1,576.60 an ounce.
Elsewhere in the corporate arena, Gardner Denver (GDI)
Ann (ANN) Inc.
H&R Block (HRB)
Write to Matt Jarzemsky at firstname.lastname@example.org