Stocks soar to new heights on good jobs report
Stocks jumped from the opening on Wall Street Friday, and traders put on party hats and a wave of buying helped the Standard and Poor's 500 index close above 1,600 for the first time. A surprisingly good jobs report sent stocks higher.
New York — Stocks on Wall Street surged to all-time highs Friday when a surprisingly good jobs report finally gave investors a clear sign of U.S. economic strength after weeks of conflicting signals. The unemployment rate fell to the lowest level in four years, 7.5 percent.
The market jumped from the opening, traders put on party hats and a wave of buying helped the Standard and Poor's 500 index close above 1,600 for the first time. The Dow Jones industrial average briefly rose above 15,000, a milestone.
On the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, brokers sported caps emblazoned with "Dow 15,000."
Investors are hoping it's more than just a one-day celebration. Jobs are key to keeping stocks climbing. Big U.S. companies are making record profits, but much of that lately has come from cutting costs, not boosting sales. More jobs, and more consumer spending, would help.
The April jobs report was a good start. U.S. employers added 165,000 new workers last month and many more in February and March than previously estimated.
The Dow rose 142.38 points to close at 14,973.96, up 1 percent. The S&P 500 index surged 16.83 points, or 1 percent, to 1,614.42.
The S&P 500 is up 13 percent from the start of the year. The Dow is up 14 percent.
Friday's gains were broad. Eight of the 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 index rose. Nearly three stocks rose for every one that fell on the NYSE.
Companies that stand to benefit most from an upturn in the economy led the stock market up. Those that make basic materials and produce oil and gas rose the most in the S&P 500 index. U.S. Steel, General Electric and Dow Chemical were among the winners. Utilities, consumer-staple companies and other safe-play stockstrailed the market as investors took on more risk.
Small-company stocks are more risky than bigger companies but can offer investors greater returns. On Friday, they outpaced the broader market. The Russell 2000 jumped 14.57 points, or 1.6 percent, to 954.42, a new all-time high.
The Nasdaq composite index rose 38.01 points to 3,378.63, an increase of 1.1 percent.
"We're breaking through psychological barriers and that will continue to bring investors off the sidelines," said Darrell Cronk, regional chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank. He called the jobs news "wonderful."
Cronk, like many others on Wall Street, has been watching individual investors for signs they may finally have shed their fear of stocks. A surge in buying from them would help push stocks higher. But individuals late last month pulled more money out of stock funds than they put in, a reversal from the trend earlier this year, according to the Investment Company Institute.
They've had reasons to pull back lately. First came news of falling retail sales in March, then a series of weak manufacturing reports and signs of an economic slowdown in China.
And first-quarter earnings have been mixed. Though they've come in higher than expected, but many companies have reported little or no revenue growth, which has spooked investors.
Investors have also been concerned that higher Social Security payroll taxes and sweeping government spending cuts that took effect earlier this year will slow U.S. economic growth and pinch corporate profits.
The new jobs numbers suggested the private sector might be strong enough to overcome those obstacles.
In its report, the government revised its previous estimate of job gains up to 332,000 in February and 138,000 in March. The economy has created an average of 208,000 jobs a month from November through April — above the 138,000 added in the previous six months.
"Jobs are key," said Randall Warren, chief investment officer of Warren Financial Service. "Everyone is worried about things like fiscal policy, the government spending money it doesn't have. If you want to turn that situation around, you have to get people off their couches."
Some investors were skeptical that stocks can continue to go up.
Tim Biggam, chief market strategist at the brokerage TradingBlock, said he thought the market was being driven higher by people hoping that the Federal Reserve's efforts to help the economy will keep working. Biggam said they're ignoring troublesome trends.
"This may be the time you want to avoid getting in the market in my opinion, rather than jump in," Biggam said.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note jumped from its lowest level of the year, as traders moved money out of the safety of government bonds. The yield rose to 1.74 percent from 1.63 percent late Thursday.
AP Business Writers Matthew Craft and Christina Rexrode contributed to this story.