Stocks Jump On Strong Jobs Report For January

Published February 3, 2012 4:36PM (EST)

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks jumped sharply in morning trading Friday on news that the unemployment rate dropped to the lowest level in three years. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 140 points.

Before the market opened, the Labor Department said companies hired 243,000 employees in January, the strongest job growth in nine months. The increase in hiring pushed the unemployment rate down to 8.3 percent.

More evidence that the economy is gaining strength followed the jobs report. A trade group said the service industry expanded at the fastest pace since last February. The government said factory orders rose 1.1 percent in December, supported by a rebound in orders for heavy machinery.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 16 points, or 1.3 percent, to 1,342, a half hour before noon. The S&P 500 is on track to rise for the fifth straight week, the longest weekly winning streak since January of 2011. It's gained 6.7 percent so far this year.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 142 points to 12,848. That's a gain of 1.1 percent. Bank of America Corp. led the Dow, rising 5.1 percent. Only two stocks, Merck and Procter & Gamble, were lower.

The Nasdaq composite added 42 points, or 1.4 percent, to 2,901.

The U.S. jobs figures helped stocks and the euro rally on Friday despite further evidence that the 17-country eurozone is heading for recession. Germany's DAX rose 1.3 percent and France's CAC-40 gained 0.8 percent.

Among companies whose stocks are making large moves Friday:

— Weyerhaeuser gained 4 percent after reporting better quarterly earnings than analysts' forecasts. The timber and real estate company's earnings still sank 62 percent.

— Video game maker Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. jumped 5 percent. The company reported a 65 percent drop in quarterly profits after the market closed Thursday, but Wall Street's analysts expected much worse.

By Salon Staff

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