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Stocks Finish Higher as Greece Fears Keep Gains in Check

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks pared gains Friday as surprising April job growth data that helped soften worries over the impact of soaring commodity prices on the economic recovery was offset by more worrying news about Greece.

The Dow ended up 55 points, or 0.4%, at 12,639. The S&P 500 rose 5 points, or 0.4%, to end at 1340, and the Nasdaq closed up 13 points, or 0.5%, at 2828.

Germany's Der Spiegel magazine reported that debt-laden Greece is thinking of leaving the eurozone and reestablishing its own currency, and that European officials convened an emergency meeting to discuss this.

The euro was falling 1.3% to a one-week low of $1.43491 as the news unfolded -- even as Greek and European finance officials deny the report. Finance ministers will be meeting in Luxembourg Friday evening to discuss a loan restructuring plan for the Greece, according to several reports.

Greece's sovereign debt totals 327 billion euros or $470 billion.

The economy added 244,000 jobs in April , according to the Labor Department's report, which far exceeded the job growth of 185,000 that the market had been expecting. Companies added 268,000 payrolls in April - the highest additions to private-sector payrolls since early 2006 - and well above the increase of 200,000 that economists had expected. April's figures compare to job growth of 221,000 in March and private sector job growth of 231,000. The unemployment rate unexpectedly rose to 9%. Wall Street had expected the level to remain unchanged at 8.8%.

Employers in health care, hospitality and manufacturing had some of the biggest staffing increases. The number of people unemployed for more than 27 weeks declined by 283,000 to 5.8 million.

"It's great to see a stronger-than-expected data point this week," said Jeff Kleintop, chief market economist at LPL Financial, adding that he felt the market reacted "in an exaggerated fashion" to some of the lower-than-expected economic data in recent weeks. "Hopefully this will bring some stability to commodities and show that we're on a path of slow economic growth, not deteriorating economic growth."

Oil prices traded back above the $100-a-barrel mark before weakening. The June crude contract fell $2.62 to settle at $97.18 a barrel. On Thursday, a stronger U.S. dollar and concerns about soaring commodity costs prompted a steep sell-off in raw materials.

The dollar strengthened against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index up by 0.9%.
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