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Stocks soar on strong jobs report; Nasdaq rises to new record high

Stocks soar on strong jobs report; Nasdaq rises to new record high
A trader works at the New York Stock Exchange. (Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

Wall Street got exactly what it wanted from Friday's jobs report: solid hiring, moderate wage growth and continued low unemployment. Investors sent stocks sharply higher, particularly their recent favorites — technology companies.

U.S. employers added 313,000 jobs in February, more than forecast, and wages didn't rise as much as investors had feared. The Labor Department also said January's increase in wages was a bit smaller than it originally thought. It made for a happy ninth anniversary for the current bull market.

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A month earlier, a jump in wages got investors worried about inflation and set off a stock market swoon, giving the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index its first 10% decline in two years.

"I think the fears of wages getting out of control in this point in the cycle were squashed," said Katie Nixon, chief investment officer for Northern Trust Wealth Management.

Bond yields also rose as investors anticipated that the solid jobs survey portends more steady growth in the U.S. economy.

The Nasdaq composite regained the last of its February losses and closed at an all-time high. Banks rose as interest rates increased. Industrial, healthcare and basic materials companies also climbed. Those sectors tend to do better when the economy is growing quickly.

The S&P 500 index climbed 47.60 points, or 1.7%, to 2,786.57. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 440.53 points, or 1.8%, to 25,335.74. The Nasdaq composite jumped 132.86 points, or 1.8%, to 7,560.81. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks ticked up 25.18 points, or 1.6%, to 1,597.14.

Apple rose 1.7% to $179.98 and Microsoft jumped 2.2% to $96.54. Both finished at record highs. Technology companies have led the market's rally since early 2017, and they have led the recovery from its recent lows as well.

The S&P 500 is still 3% beneath its Jan. 26 record-high close. Technology is the only major S&P sector to have recovered all of its February losses.

Bond prices dropped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.90% from 2.85%. Banks stocks advanced. High-dividend stocks such as utilities and phone companies fell; those stocks are often compared to bonds and they tend to fall when bond yields rise, as higher bond yields make the stocks less appealing to investors seeking income.

Stocks initially declined last week after President Trump said he would place tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. They have recovered their losses after he granted exemptions to Canada, Mexico and potentially other countries.

Nixon said the Trump administration appears to be setting itself up to take a harder line on China. Although China isn't a major exporter of steel to the United States, trade disputes between the two countries aren't uncommon and the government is investigating China's treatment of intellectual property held by U.S. companies.

"Clearly the target here is China, and how that unfolds will be important for markets," Nixon said. "The collateral damage could be relatively wide unless it's done carefully, and so far the process has not been very careful."

U.S. and South Korean officials said Trump might meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by May to negotiate a potential end to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. The news helped send South Korea's Kospi up 1.1%. Other Asian indexes also rose. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 gained 0.5%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 1.1%.

The White House later said the meeting won't happen unless North Korea takes "concrete steps" to match promises it has made.

Netflix climbed 4.6%, to $331.44 after reports that the streaming service is negotiating to have former President Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama produce shows. The two sides haven't confirmed that they are in talks. GBH Insights analyst Daniel Ives said a deal with the Obamas would be "another major win for Netflix" as it tries to launch more and more original shows.

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Toymakers fell after reports that Toys R Us is getting ready to liquidate its U.S. operations. The chain, which filed for bankruptcy protection, has been unable to find a buyer or restructure its debt, but is still a major retailer of toys. Hasbro dropped 2.1% to $91.46, and Mattel sank 7.1% to $14.84.

GoPro fell 4% to $5.51 after the New York Post reported that the action camera maker isn't getting much interest from potential buyers.

Big Lots sank 10.1% to $48.45 after the discount retailer reported weak sales and gave disappointing forecasts for the current year.

Energy companies climbed with oil prices. Benchmark U.S. crude jumped $1.92, or 3%, to $62.04 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, jumped $1.88, or 3%, to $65.49 a barrel.

Wholesale gasoline rose 4 cents to $1.90 a gallon. Heating oil rose 3 cents to $1.89 a gallon. Natural gas fell 4 cents to $2.73 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $2.30 to $1,324 an ounce. Silver rose 11 cents to $16.61 an ounce. Copper jumped 6 cents, or 1.9%, to $3.14 a pound.

The dollar rose to 106.77 yen from 106.24 yen. The euro rose to $1.2313 from $1.2306.

In Europe, France's CAC 40 rose 0.4% while Germany's DAX fell 0.1%. The FTSE 100 in Britain rose 0.3%.

UPDATES:

2:35 p.m.: This article was updated with closing prices, context and analyst comment.

1:10 p.m.: This article was updated with the close of markets.

8:10 a.m.: This article was updated with additional details.

This article was originally published at 7 a.m.

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