Stocks rally on jobs report; S&P 500 hits record high

Wall Street capped a huge week with a sharp advance Friday after the government's employment report for September and its revision of August's data cooled the market's fears of a recession.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index, the measure most closely followed by market watchers, reached a new closing high.

The Labor Department's report that employers added 110,000 jobs in September — essentially what analysts had expected — reassured Wall Street that the job market wasn't pulling back sharply as was feared a month ago.

Though the data appeared to lessen the likelihood of an interest rate cut when the Federal Reserve meets Oct. 30-31, investors were relieved that the economy doesn't appear headed for a precipitous slowdown.

Strength this year in the job market amid a housing downturn and tighter credit conditions has been an important pillar for the economy. With consumer spending accounting for about two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, investors are eager for workers to continue to collect their paychecks.

Much of Wall Street's collective exhale Friday owed to a revision in August payrolls, which were updated to show a gain of 89,000 jobs compared with an earlier estimate of loss of 4,000 jobs. The release of the August figure — when economists had predicted a rise — sent the Dow down nearly 250 points in a single session and, market watchers say, played a role in the Fed's decision to cut its key interest rate by a larger-than-expected half-percentage point last month.

"We're not seeing a weakening of the labor market. There's no indication that the wheels are falling off," said T.J. Marta, economic strategist at RBC Capital Markets. He contends that while the employment figures make it less likely the Fed will cut rates this month, many on Wall Street were relieved to see the economy forging ahead.

"It looks bad compared with the rip-roaring days in the housing sector but this is called normalcy."

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 91.70, or 0.7%, to 14,066.01. The blue chip index set a new intraday trading high of 14,124.54, topping a high of 14,115.51 set Monday, when the index also saw a record close of 14,087.55.

Broader stock indicators also jumped. The S&P 500 index rose 14.75, or 1.0%, to 1557.59. The advance put the S&P 500 ahead of the previous record close of 1553.08, which occurred July 19 before stocks began a broad retrenchment amid concerns about credit, housing and the overall economy.

The S&P 500, which is the basis of many mutual funds and other investments and used as a benchmark for others, also set a fresh intraday trading high of 1561.91, topping a July 16 high of 1555.90.

The technology-dominated Nasdaq composite index showed bigger gains, rising 46.75, or 1.7%, to 2780.32.

Likewise, the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 15.71, or 1.9%, to 844.86.

The gains left stocks sharply higher for the week. The Dow added 1.2%, while the S&P 500 2.0% and the Nasdaq advanced 2.9%. The Russell 2000 posted the biggest gains, however, jumping 4.9%.

Bond prices fell sharply as investors interpreted the jobs data as evidence against a rate cut. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, climbed to 4.64% from 4.53% late Thursday.

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