Stocks pushed higher after a wobbly start Friday as investors digested a mixed jobs report: The unemployment rate hit a 26-year high but layoffs seemed to be tapering off.
The unemployment rate jumped to 9.7 percentin August, two-tenths of a percent higher than expected. Employers cut 216,000 from nonfarm payrolls, less than expected.
Futures had initially dropped after the report as investors were rattled by the jump in the unemployment rate but then recovered as the market focused on the fact that the pace of layoffs is slowing.
"I would not be too discouraged about the unemployment rate. The decline last month was too good to be true, really," Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight, told Reuters. "It's too early for the unemployment rate to be coming down, of course we're still losing jobs. 'What I would take encouragement from is the fact is the trend in the rate of decline in jobs is still improving."
Investors will also be watching the G20 finance ministers meeting in London, which kicks off today.
Wall Street's major averages did manage to register their first gains of the new month on Thursday. Though it's obviously too early to determine whether September 2009 will buck the trend of this particular month — on average — being the worst one of the year for stock investors.