Stocks Advance Amid Jobs-Report Relief
Stocks rallied Friday amid relief that the job loss in February wasn't as bad as expected.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up about 80 points, or 0.8 percent, at midmorning, led by Boeing as commodity and industrial stocks got a boost from the jobs report, which showed 1,000 manufacturing jobs were added last month. American Express and Disney rounded out the top three.
A handful of components were lower, led by P&G and Verizon.
The S&P 500and Nasdaq were up about 1 percent, boosted by Apple, which set a date for the iPad to go on sale.
Employersslashed 36,000 jobs from nonfarm payrolls last month, far fewer than expected. The consensus estimate had projected a loss of 50,000 jobs but the whisper number went as high as 200,000, given the impact of brutal winter weather in the Northeast. Job losses for December and January were revised to show 35,000 fewer jobs lost than previously reported. And the unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent.
Manufacturing showed signs of a modest recovery, adding 1,000 jobs, but construction shed 64,000 jobs — a worrisome sign for the sector at this point in the recovery. Census hiring was just 15,000, less than expected.
Temporary work rose for a fifth straight month, which is usually viewed as an encouraging sign but Todd Schoenberger, managing director at LandColt Trading, said it's the source of some concern.
"After dissecting the report, traders are recognizing that what is keeping the jobs number from falling off a cliff is the amount of temporary hiring," Schoenberger explained. "Unless there is supporting evidence that temps are becoming permanent on company payrolls, the long-range view remains cloudy. This could dampen any bullish sentiment that appeared following the release," he said.
If the economy starts to wobble, the Fed may have to renew some of its stimulus set to expire at the end of March, Bill Gross, of bond giant Pimco, said on CNBC this morning.
"These things have all been very critical but let's face it — they're expiring at the end of March," Gross said. "The critical question...is do we really need Uncle Sam and the check writing to continue?"
Commodity stocks got a boost as the better-than-expected jobs report pushed both oil and gold higher.
Bank stocks were also higher, with Goldman Sachs and Citigroup up more than 1 percent. European bank stocks fared even better — UBS and Barclays were up more than 3 percent.
A little bit of drama in Europe this morning: Germany's economic minister Rainer Bruederle warned that the euro zone's largest economy "does not intend to give a cent" to Greece.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is meeting German chancellor Angela Merkel Friday, after the country successfully launched a 5 billion euro ($6.8 billion) bond in the international markets Thursday.
Despite all the drama, Greek stocks are actually up five out of the last six days. And Europe has generally outperformed the U.S. market this week — London's benchmark FTSE index is at a 52-week high.
And in China, Premier Wen Jiabao said the governmment would maintain an appropriately easy monetary stanceand active fiscal policy in his annual address to the congress.
AIG said in a regulatory filing that its insurance-like guarantees on over $100 billion of assets in European banks could remain on its books longer than the six monthsit had previously projected.
Large-cap tech stocks advanced. Apple gained after the company said its iPad tablet would go on sale in the U.S. April 3 and international sales would start later in April. And Google rose after Citigroup reiterated its "buy" rating on the stock. Dell was up about 1 percent, while Intel gained about half a percent.
Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton advanced as they wage a battle to switch spot pricing for iron ore. The two companies could hold out for an 80 percent price increase if mills don't adopt indexing for the 2010-11 shipping year.
Toyota detailed further plans to deal with the problems that caused its widespread recalls. The company plans to set up a special team to boost road tests and review its research and development process, according to technology chief Takeshi Uchiyamada.
Still to Come:
FRIDAY: consumer credit
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