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Stocks Remain Up Before Close; Kraft Gains

Friday, 6 May 2011 | 3:58 PM ET

Stocks stabilized in the final hour of trading off the highs of the day, but still up nearly half a percent amid falling oil prices and sliding energy stocks, but in the aftermath of a surprisingly strong report on jobs growth in April.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 65 points, after rising more than 170 points earlier after a strong April jobs report. The blue-chip index sank about 139 points in the previous session amid a broad sell-off in commodities.

Kraft was among Dow stocks that led the average higher thanks to stronger-than-expected earnings results delivered after the market closed on Thursday, and price target upgrades by several brokerages. Intel led the handful of blue-chip laggards.

TheS&P 500 and the Nasdaq also gained. Most S&P 500 sectors gained, led by materials and industrials.

The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, rose above 18.

The market weakened in mid-afternoon trading as oil prices slipped, dragging energy shares down. The energy sector had earlier led the market higher.

Stocks may have also trimmed gains because of the dollar, which started the session out weaker, but was recently up nearly 1 percent against a basket of currencies. The dollar rose sharply on Thursday as the euro sank as prospects of a June rate hike by the European Central Bank dimmed.

The euro was dealt another blow on Friday after a report in Germany's Spiegel Onlinethat Greece has talked about leaving the euro zone. The report was denied by German officials.

"That could be the most interesting sort of trick in the market’s book," said J.J. Kinahan. "If the dollar were to strengthen, that could throw people for a loop."

A falling dollar has aided stocks, as investors support companies that can benefit from selling their goods at more competitive prices overseas.

Some of the late afternoon weakness can also be attributed to traders wishing to close out their positions before the weekend. "They want to go home without worry," Kinahan said.

Friday's market action, while somewhat volatile, is nothing like the "Flash Crash," when the Dow plunged nearly 1,000 points in minutes. While the new rules that have been implemented since the incident have reduced the severity of future crashes, skeptics still believe that the system has flawsand is vulnerable to individual stock disruptions.

Stocks surged after the market opened after news of a 244,000 jump in nonfarm payrolls for April, a figure that was far above analyst estimates for about a 186,000 gain.

The jump was great news for stocks, says Todd Schoenberger, managing director at LandColt Trading. The best part of the report was that private payrolls gained 268,000 in April, up from 231,000 in March, Schoenberger said.

"It's obvious these jobs are sticky, and not of the temporary, part-time variety," Schoenberger said. (Another View: Dark Side of Jobs Report—Why the Numbers Aren't so Good).

The April report also counters dismal economic news released earlier in the week, including a weak report on service sector growth, as well as a big jump in initial claims for unemployment benefits. Although same store sales datafrom retailers showed relative strength on Thursday.

Stocks: Time to Get In?
Discussing the jobs report; the market's "sweet spot", and whether investors should jump in, with Jeffrey Palma, UBS; Jeffrey Saut,, Raymond James, and Warren Meyers, DME Securities.

Commodity prices started the session out relatively quiet. But then U.S. light crude sank, closing below $98 a barrel, while buyers returnedto silver gold. Spot silver rose on Friday, but silver futures slipped. For the week, gold fell 4.2 percent, and silver fell 27.4 percent to $35.283.

Earlier in the day, Trichet told CNBC that the commodity selloff would help to calm inflation, which he said was good news.

On the earnings front, Visa rose slightly after initially slipping Thursday after the credit-card processing firm delivered earnings that failed to beat expectations by the wide margins investors were once used to. Wedbush and Susquehanna raised their price target for the Company.

Engineering firm Fluor soared after beating estimates, and reporting a surging backlog of work.

As of today, 437 S&P 500 firms or 87 percent of the index have reported quarterly. (Track all earnings here.) Of the results, 69 percent of the earnings reports have come in above estimates while 19 percent of the earnings have come in below forecasts.

Berkshire Hathaway was expected to release earnings figures after-the-bell tonight.

The earnings season is slowly winding down with just a couple big firms expected to report next week such as Disney, Toyota, Cisco and Macy's.

Elsewhere, Citigroup gained after the financial giant was upgraded to "overweight" from "equal-weight" at Morgan Stanley, ahead undergoing a 1-for-10 reverse stock split on Monday. The move is likely to push the bank's shares above $40from around $4.55, and curb active trading in its shares.

Sony gained after news CEO Howard Stringer apologized to users of its PlayStation Network for security breaches that compromised their identities. A group of hackers, meanwhile, said they are planning a third security breach of the network.

Shares of Warner Music Group advanced after news Access Industries won an auction to take control of the company with a bid of $8.25 a share, Reuters reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. Shares were halted after news of the auction came out.

In other economic news, consumer credit is expected to fall to $4.9 billion in March from in $7.6 billion in February, a Briefing.com poll showed. The figures will be released at 3 pm ET.

Shares in Europe closed higherafter the better-than-expected U.S. jobs data improved investor confidence about the recovery.

On Tap Next Week:

MONDAY: Employment trends index, McDonald's April sales, Intel announcement, US/China strategic & economic dialogue, Citi reverse stock split takes effect; earnings from Activision Blizzard after-the-bell.
TUESDAY: NFIB small business index, import and export prices, wholesale trade, Richmond Fed president speaks, 3-year Treasury note auction; Google developers conference, CIT Group shareholder meeting; earnings from Dean Foods before-the-bell, and Disney after-the-bell.
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications, international trade, oil inventories, Atlanta Fed president speaks, 10-year Treasury note auction, Cleveland Fed president speaks, Minneapolis Fed president speaks, Treasury budget, AIG IPO roadshow, Comcast shareholder meeting, Senate judiciary hearing on AT&T merger; earnings from Arcelor Mittal and Toyota before-the-bell, and Cisco and Symantec after-the-bell.
THURSDAY: PPI, retail sales, jobless claims, business inventories, 30-year Treasury bond auction, money supply, NPD video game sales, Ford shareholder meeting, options industry conference; earnings from Kohl's and Macy's before-the-bell, and Nordstrom after-the-bell.
FRIDAY: CPI, consumer sentiment, Transocean shareholder meeting; Earnings from Petrobras

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