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Stocks rise after strong jobs report; tech shares jump

Stocks rise after strong jobs report; tech shares jump
A Wall Street sign in New York. (Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

Led by technology companies, U.S. stocks rose Friday after a strong February jobs report. Most parts of the market moved higher as investors wait for the Federal Reserve to meet next week. The central bank is almost universally expected to raise interest rates.

The jobs report was a bit better than investors expected, but they had assumed it would show employers are adding jobs at a solid clip. They had also anticipated since last week that the Fed will raise interest rates next Wednesday, and the data did nothing to challenge that. Technology, industrial and healthcare companies climbed while energy companies missed out on the rally as oil prices continued to fall.

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"It was a solid report all around that reinforces that the economy is on solid footing," said Sameer Samana, a strategist for the Wells Fargo Investment Institute. Samana said investors are glad to see continued hiring and more people seeking work, but they're also glad the economy isn't gaining strength too quickly. That might force the Fed to raise interest rates faster, with uncertain effects on the economy.

"If they go too quickly or raise rates too many times, there's a risk we'll find ourselves in a downturn," he said.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 7.73 points, or 0.3%, to 2,372.60. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 44.79 points, or 0.2%, to 20,902.98. The Nasdaq composite added 22.92 points, or 0.4%, to 5,861.73.

Stocks had mostly fallen since March 1, the day indexes soared to their most recent record highs.

Overall it was a slow week for stocks. The current bull market had its eighth anniversary, but six-week winning streaks for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq ended, and the Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks took its biggest loss in three months.

Technology companies climbed thanks in part to gains for computer chip makers. Applied Materials rose 2% to $38.12 and Broadcom rose 2% to $226.35. Texas Instruments went up 1.5% to $80.33. But Finisar dived 22.7% to $26.98 after the fiber optic component supplier reported a smaller profit and weaker sales than Wall Street expected.

General Electric climbed 2.1% to $30.28, leading industrial companies higher. Engine maker Cummins advanced 1.8% to $151.50 and industrial equipment and software maker Rockwell Automation rose 1.4% to $154.31.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.58% from 2.61%. The slip in bond yields and interest rates pushed banks lower. Meanwhile, big-dividend stocks — such as utilities, phone companies and makers of everyday household goods — went up. AT&T rose 1% to $42.35 and Colgate-Palmolive rose 1.2% to $72.46.

Beauty products retailer Ulta climbed 4.6% to $286.42 after it reported a bigger profit and stronger sales than analysts had expected. Competitor Estee Lauder rose 3.4% to $85.66. Ulta is up 75% over the last year.

Zumiez sank 12.4% to $18.40 as analysts worried about the clothing retailer's sales projections. The company said its sales declined in February, and its forecasts for the first quarter fell short of estimates.

Oil prices fell for the fifth day in a row. Benchmark U.S. oil sank 79 cents, or 1.6%, to $48.49 a barrel in New York. After small losses early in the week, the price of U.S. crude dropped 9% over the last three days after the government reported a big increase in stockpiles. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 82 cents, or 1.6%, to $51.37 a barrel in London.

The dollar inched up to 114.78 yen from 114.74 yen. The euro rose to $1.0692 from $1.0586.

Gold fell $1.80 to $1,201.40 an ounce, notching its ninth decline in a row. Silver slipped 11 cents to $16.92 an ounce. Copper rose 2 cents to $2.60 a pound.

Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.60 a gallon. Heating oil fell 3 cents to $1.50 a gallon. Natural gas rose 3 cents to $3 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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The CAC 40 in France rose 0.4% and the FTSE 100 index in Britain picked up 0.2%. Germany's DAX slipped 0.1%. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 jumped 1.5% as the dollar surged against the yen, favoring manufacturers. South Korea's Kospi and the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong each climbed 0.3%.

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UPDATES:

2:15 p.m.: This article was updated with closing prices, context and analyst comment.

1:30 p.m.: This article was updated with the close of markets.

This article was originally published at 7 a.m.

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