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Dow futures initially turned lower and then surged higher Friday after the government reported much better than expected jobs growth in February. Stocks bounced despite bond yields pushing even higher. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Thursday failed to reassure investors that the central bank would keep surging bond yields and inflation in check.
The Dow closed 345 points, or 1.1%, lower Thursday, in a wild session that saw the 30-stock average down more than twice that at one stage. The S&P 500 fell 1.3%. The Nasdaq was the big loser on the day, sinking more than 2%, and closing nearly 10% off its Feb. 12 record high. The index also went negative on the year. As of Thursday's close, the Dow and S&P 500 held onto slim 2021 gains.
The Labor Department on Friday morning reported that the U.S. economy generated 379,000 new jobs in February, well above forecasts of 210,000 nonfarm payroll additions. The unemployment rate dipped to 6.2%, a bit lower than estimates of 6.3%. Nearly all of last month's job gains came from the battered leisure and hospitality sector, which saw an increase of 355,000 positions as some states started to relax Covid dining restrictions in some areas.
The 10-year Treasury yield moved higher Friday, trading above 1.62% and hitting a new one-year high, before backing off a bit. Yields have increased rapidly since the end of January, stoking inflation fears. Powell did little to allay those concerns, acknowledging he sees some inflationary pressures ahead. However, he also said that rising prices won't likely be enough to spur the Fed to hike interest rates. The market had been looking for Powell to address the recent surge in bond yields more directly, with a possible nod toward adjusting the Fed's asset purchase program.
Debate in the Senate on Democrats' $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package is set to continue as lawmakers try to beat a deadline to prevent a federal unemployment aid boost from expiring. The Senate voted Thursday to start debate on the rescue package, setting the stage for its approval as soon as this weekend under rules that allow for passage with a simple majority. Vice President Kamala Harris had to break a 50-50 tie after a party-line vote in the evenly divided chamber. As soon as the Senate began considering the bill, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., forced the chamber's clerks to begin reading the entire 628-page measure aloud.
Connecticut will be relaxing many Covid mitigation restrictions in two weeks on businesses, theaters, churches and travel. But Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday the statewide mask mandate will remain in effect. Connecticut is among many states easing virus restrictions, despite repeated warnings from health officials that opening too quickly could risk another lethal wave in the U.S. This week, the Republican governors of Mississippi and Texas went a step further, ending all Covid restrictions, including mask mandates.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow all the developments on Wall Street in real time with CNBC Pro's live markets blog. Get the latest on the pandemic with our coronavirus blog.