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Stocks advance after jobs report, close higher for the week; utilities lead

U.S. equities closed higher on Friday, with the three major indexes posting weekly gains, following a disappointing employment report.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed about 70 points higher, with Boeing contributing the most gains. The index traded 125.46 points higher at its session high.

The S&P 500 rose about 0.4 percent, with utilities leading advancers. The Nasdaq gained 0.4 percent. The three indexes also posted weekly gains of about 0.5 percent.

"We had a jobs report slightly below expectations, but that was after two months of higher-than-expected jobs growth," said Jeffrey Kleintop, chief global investment strategist at Charles Schwab, noting the report did not take a rate hike off the table for 2016. "The dollar is up, supporting this view. ... Some of the financial stocks are also pointing in that direction."

The dollar fell against a basket of currencies following the jobs report release, before erasing those losses. The U.S. currency last traded 0.21 percent higher at 95.85.

U.S. Treasurys whipsawed Friday, with the two-year note yield erasing earlier losses, trading near 0.79 percent, and the 10-year note yield around 1.60 percent after trading lower.

Chris Molumphy, chief investment officer at Franklin Templeton's Fixed Income Group, said "while relatively soft to expectations, the report points to an improving labor market," noting that Fed Chair Janet Yellen was looking for a reason to raise rates.

"Even though we're in year eight of this recovery, the jobs market is still improving," he said. "We think September is still absolutely on the table, though it's not a most likely scenario."

NYSE Trader on the floor
Andrew Burton | Getty Images

Investors were anxiously expecting the jobs report as they looked for more clues about whether the Fed would raise interest rates in September. Market expectations for a rate hike in September fell to 24 percent from 27 percent following the report's release, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool. Expectations also fell as low as 12 percent Friday.

"Bad news is good news. This report was so terrible across the board that the market is thinking rationally the Fed ... is not going to be so cavalier as to raise rates in September," said Phil Orlando, chief equity strategist at Federated Investors. He added that December is still open for a Fed rate hike.

"If I'm the Fed, I just sit on my hands, wait for December and hope for the best," he said.

The U.S. economy added 151,000 jobs in August, with the unemployment rate coming in at 4.9 percent. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 180,000 were added last month, while the unemployment rate remained at 4.8 percent.

"This is not what the Fed wanted to see," said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Stifel Fixed Income. "The Fed wanted to see evidence that the June and July reports were indicative" a strong labor market. She added the Fed's next meeting, scheduled for September 20-21, will be held against a backdrop of a weak first half of the year and a labor market that is losing momentum.

"Some analysts may cite seasonal and calendar issues surrounding the disappointing Nonfarm Payrolls reading as contributing to the shortfall; however, the recovery has far less momentum than the Chairman and her colleagues think it does," Jeremy Klein, chief market analyst at FBN Securities, said in a Friday note to clients.

Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, struck a more positive note when talking about the report. "My take is 151,000 is a very middle-of-the-road number," he said, noting that August marked the 71 straight month with positive job gains, the longest on record.

"It is a symptom of how well the economy has been doing that we view 151,000 as a bad number," he said.

U.S. futures rose from near break-even after the report's release.

"I'm in the camp that this was a great number for the stock market," said Jason Thomas, chief economist at AssetMark. He added, however, that economic "growth has been surprisingly slow."

"There's a tremendous amount of uncertainty," Thomas said. "When you compare that with the fact that investors want yield ... I think that's a drag."

Other data due released Friday included July factory orders, which rose 1.9 percent, slightly below the expected 2 percent.

Naeem Aslam, chief market strategist at Think Markets, said the jobs report "was not sturdy, however the Fed only needs a number which blows just enough wind for their ship to sail."

Richmond Fed President Jeffery Lacker said in a speech the U.S. economy looks strong enough to merit higher rates. Lacker is not a voting member until 2018.

Still, AssetMark's Thomas said investors can look past those remarks since recent data supports a view within the Fed that the equilibrium rate is lower.

In oil markets, U.S. crude settled 2.97 percent higher at $44.44 a barrel, amid Russian comments favoring a production freeze.

Overseas, European equities rose broadly, with the Stoxx 600 index advancing nearly 2 percent. In Asia, stocks closed mostly flat, with the Shanghai composite gaining 0.13 percent and the Nikkei 225 falling just 0.01 percent.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
DJIA
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S&P 500
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NASDAQ
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The Dow Jones industrial average rose 72.66 points, or 0.39 percent, to close at 18,491.96, with Boeing leading advancers and Nike the greatest laggard.

The S&P 500 advanced 9.12 points, or 0.42 percent, to end at 2,179.98, with utilities leading all sectors higher.

The Nasdaq closed 22.69 points higher, or 0.43 percent, at 5,249.90.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded more than 9.5 percent lower, near 12.2.

Gold futures for December delivery settled $9.60 higher at $1,326.70 per ounce.

About four stocks advanced for every decliner at the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 790.27 million and a composite volume of 3.005 billion at the close.

High-frequency trading accounted for 49 percent of August's daily trading volume of about 6.12 billion shares, according to TABB Group. During the peak levels of high-frequency trading in 2009, about 61 percent of 9.8 billion of average daily shares traded were executed by high-frequency traders.