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Stocks Rally, Nasdaq Reaches Record High On Upbeat Jobs Data - U.S. Commentary


Stocks moved sharply higher over the course of the trading day on Friday, adding the gains posted in the previous session. With the upward move on the day, the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed higher for the sixth straight session, reaching a record closing high.

The major averages saw further upside going into the close, ending the session at their best levels of the day. The Dow jumped 440.53 points or 1.8 percent to 25,335.74, the Nasdaq spiked 132.86 points or 1.8 percent to 7,560.81 and the S&P 500 surged up 47.60 points or 1.7 percent to 2,786.57.

For the week, the Nasdaq soared by 4.2 percent, while the Dow and the S&P 500 shot up by 3.3 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.

The rally on Wall Street came after the Labor Department released a report showing much stronger than expected job growth in February.

The Labor Department said non-farm payroll employment surged up by 313,000 jobs in February after jumping by an upwardly revised 239,000 jobs in January.

Economists had expected employment to climb by 200,000 jobs, matching the increase originally reported for the previous month.

Despite the stronger than expected job growth, the unemployment rate held at 4.1 percent in February. The unemployment rate had been expected to dip to 4.0 percent.

The report also said the annual rate of growth in average hourly employee earnings fell to 2.6 percent in February from 2.8 percent in January.

The markets also benefited from easing geopolitical concerns amid news President Donald Trump has agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

In a post on Twitter, Trump said, "Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time."

"Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached," he added. "Meeting being planned!"

The meeting between Trump and Kim would be the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

Sector News

Financial stocks turned in some of the market's best performances on the day, benefiting from economic optimism following the upbeat jobs data.

Within the financial sector, brokerage stocks posted particularly strong gains, driving the NYSE Arca Broker/Dealer Index up by 2.5 percent to a record closing high.

Significant strength was also visible among transportation stocks, as reflected by the 2.6 percent jump by the Dow Jones Transportation Average. Railroad operators Union Pacific (UNP) and Norfolk Southern (NSC) posted standout gains.

Oil service stocks also saw considerable strength on the day, resulting in a 2.2 percent advance by the Philadelphia Oil Service Index. The strength in the sector came as crude oil for April delivery soared $1.92 to $62.04 a barrel.

Semiconductor, chemical and retail stocks also moved notably higher, reflecting broad based buying interest on Wall Street.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region saw further upside during trading on Friday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index climbed by 0.5 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped by 1.1 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets turned in a mixed performance on the day. While the German DAX Index edged down by 0.1 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

In the bond market, treasuries moved to the downside on the heels of the upbeat employment data. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, rose by 2.8 basis points at 2.894 percent.

Looking Ahead

Next week's trading is likely to be impacted by reaction to a slew of U.S. economic data, including reports on consumer and producer price inflation, retail sales, regional manufacturing activity, housing starts and industrial production.

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