Stocks rose Friday as Wall Street cheered the positive news it had been hoping for: Job losses slowed in April and big banks don't need as much capital as some had feared.
Major indicators rose more than 1%, including the Dow Jones industrial average, which jumped 165 points.
Bank shares helped drive the gains following the release of the government's stress tests late Thursday. Energy stocks surged as oil prices jumped on the improving economic outlook.
Wall Street welcomed the Labor Department's report that employers cut 539,000 jobs last month — the fewest in six months and much less than the 620,000 analysts had expected.
The jobs report also said the unemployment rate climbed to 8.9% — the highest since 1983 — from 8.5% as many businesses refrained from hiring amid an uncertain economic outlook.
"The news is never all good when you've hit bottom," said Alan Skrainka, chief market strategist at Edward Jones. "But that doesn't change our view that the rate of decline is slowing."
At the close of trading, the Dow rose 165, or 2%, to 8,575. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 22, or 2.4%, to 929, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 23, or 1.3%, to 1,739.
Investors also were relieved that the results of the government's stress tests of the 19 largest U.S. banks were not worse than anticipated. Ten of them will need to raise about $75 billion in new capital as a buffer against losses if the economy worsens.
"Getting past the stress tests was a milestone," said Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investments for PNC Wealth Management. "That was a cloud hanging over our head for the past several months. The good news is there were no surprises."
Shares of banks surged, even of those which have to raise more money. Citigroup c rose 26 cents, or 6.8%, to $4.07, and Bank of America bac rose 57 cents, or 4.2%, to $14.08. Regional bank Fifth Third Bancorp soared $3, or 56%, to $8.35.
The stress tests found that BofA needs the most capital of its peers: $33.9 billion. The bank plans to raise about $17 billion in capital in the coming weeks, and plans an additional $10 billion in asset sales.
"If anything, the market is reading this more as a sign of approval than a bad sign for the weaker banks," said Jim Sinegal, equity analyst at Morningstar.
Investors also got some encouraging words from the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Jeffrey Lacker, who said in a speech before the Washington D.C. Chamber of Commerce that the economy should bottom out later this year and begin expanding again.
The market has been on an upward swing since early March, rising more than 25% from 12-year lows on better news about business at banks and an increasing amount of improving economic data on housing, manufacturing and other key sectors of the economy.
Even the battered labor market has been showing signs of moderation. On Thursday, the government said new applications for unemployment benefits fell unexpectedly last week to the lowest level in 14 weeks.
Though analysts believe many challenges remain, the market has demonstrated an ability to stay the course, putting in its best two-month performance in nearly 35 years.