Wall Street cheers better-than-expected jobs report

U.S. stock index futures signaled a slightly higher open on Friday, encouraged by a better-than-expected labor market report—a key indicator of the health of the U.S. economy.

The Labor Department said the United States created 257,000 jobs in January, beating estimates of about 230,000. More importantly, average hourly earnings grew by 0.5 percent, above estimates.

The unemployment rate rose to 5.7 percent, above estimates.

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Futures turned higher on the news with Dow futures extending gains from 9 points to as much as more than 80 points. The U.S. 10-year Treasury note yield rose from about 1.80 percent to 1.91 percent.

Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, said in a note that "solid job growth continues."

"The Fed's game of rationalizing zero interest rates has no touch with reality," he said. "The reason, however, why this good job growth is not translating into faster GDP growth is because productivity is so poor, which means that 2015 could be the peak in corporate profit margins."

Thursday's reports showed non-farm productivity fell a greater-than-expected 1.8 percent for the fourth quarter. Economists had forecast productivity, which measures hourly output per worker, rising at a 0.5 percent pace.

The Labor Department had expected to report the creation of 230,000 nonfarm payrolls in January, with the unemployment rate holding steady at 5.6 percent and wage growth of 0.3 percent. Last month, a 0.20 percent decline, or a 5-cent drop, in hourly earnings jarred markets.

Traders work the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
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Traders work the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

The total nonfarm payroll accounts for about 80 percent of the workers who produce the entire gross domestic product of the United States. Consumer credit figures for December are also due for release at 3:00 p.m. ET.

Friday is a much quieter day for earnings, with Moody's and Madison Square Garden posting earnings that beat. CBOE Holdings missed expectations. Energy company Dominion is due to report after the bell.

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In Europe, equities traded lower after Greece's talks with Germany – the euro zone's largest economy – over the future of its bailout program had mixed success.

On Thursday, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis met his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble in Berlin after a week of touring European capitals in an effort to drum up support for Greece's new proposals over its debt and bailout program.

Following the talks, Schaeuble said the ministers had "agreed to disagree."

The Greek government is under pressure to find a solution to its funding situation as international lenders are unwilling to release its latest tranche of aid until it makes a commitment to continue with the conditions of its bailout.

In oil markets, crude oil prices rallied on Friday, continuing a rebound from near-six-year lows seen last week, with Brent crude futures $1.62 higher at $58.25 a barrel, and U.S. crude for March delivery up $1.14 at $52.66 a barrel at 8:49 a.m.

Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.