As hungry pedestrians grumble, shoving their way through Wall Street's narrow alleyways, taken over by John McCain and the blaring Straight Talk Express, traders inside are cheering.

In February, only 43,000 people took the

Silhouettes'

advice and got a job, much less than expected, and that's got all major indices booming on a heavily traded Friday.

Nonfarm payrolls

increased 43,000 in February, way short of the 206,000

Reuters'

consensus. The

unemployment rate

ticked up to 4.1%. A few more job reports like this, and the Fed, which has been baring its teeth at the markets recently, will turn tail.

The rally is a broad one, with the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

lately up 242.92 to 10,407.84, a 2.4% gain, led by

3M

(MMM) - Get Report

, up 6.8% and

DuPont

(DD) - Get Report

, up 10.4%. The

S&P

was lately up 23.79 to 1405.55.

"If the specter of higher interest rates has a light at the end of the tunnel, then you've got to reward the stocks you've been punishing," said Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst at

Jefferies

. "All of the old economy stocks that have been tarnished, you've got to buy."

The

Federal Reserve

is aiming to slow growth through a series of rate hikes to stave off inflation, but some view its efforts as an attack on the stock market, because the central bank has become increasingly focused on what contribution the so-called wealth effect has on consumer demand. Any sign that suggests the Fed might ease up on interest-rate hikes is a positive for equities.

The companies that dominate the Dow and S&P have been knocked down as Fed officials have engaged in jawboning about high asset prices and as interest rates climbed. That, of course, includes the financials, among the most sensitive to interest rates.

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

was up 2.2%;

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

gained 3.1% and

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

rose 4.5%.

Keeping the Fed at Bay?

Lately, interest rates have stabilized, and though most still believe the Fed will raise the funds rate to 6% from 5.75% at the March 21 meeting, this morning's report has given the market a bit of hope that the Fed won't be quite so aggressive in coming months.

"Obviously these movements can be erratic from one month to the next, so it's too early to conclude anything fundamental has gone on yet," said Carol Stone, deputy chief economist at

Nomura Securities

. "We continue to look for one tightening move. Whether there's anything more than that, it will depend on how these employment trends develop in succeeding months."

A pessimist might say that one report does not a slowdown make, which would imply that today's activity is an overreaction, but then again, pessimists tend to be bond traders. The benchmark 10-year Treasury note was lately unchanged at 100 26/32, yielding 6.388%.

The

Nasdaq Composite Index

, meanwhile, treats economic data the way a college student treats pizza. When it's good, it's real good -- when it's bad, well, it's good anyway.

The tech-heavy index, which has been isolated from the Fed's jabbering, partially because many newer tech companies don't rely on debt for financing, was surging. It was up 122.93 to 4877.44, which would be a closing record, a 2.6% gain.

Ned Collins, executive vice president at

Daiwa Securities

, said the jobs report certainly gave the market a boost, but he noticed an improvement in tone midweek, compared with previous weeks. He sites the recent performance of what he called "New-Old Economy" stocks, such as

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

and

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

as evidence that some of the sting of higher interest rates has been reduced. IBM was lately up 5.8%, while Dell gained 2.9%.

"I think a lot of people were on the sidelines, and trying not to be involved because they were so convinced the correction was starting," Collins said. "When the market eked out a small gain Wednesday, and a little more yesterday, it caused people to have more confidence."

The Comp is being led by semiconductor stocks, including

Altera

(ALTR) - Get Report

, which has jumped 14.7% after several analyst upgrades, and

Rambus

(RMBS) - Get Report

, which has tacked on 9.7%. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

was up 5.3%.

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index was also enjoying the first hours of trading, up 43.29 to 1207.4. The index was led by

RealNetworks

(RNWK) - Get Report

, up 9.5%, and

Inktomi

(INKT)

, rising 8.7%.

The

Russell 2000

rose 12.19 to 596.23.

Most active on the

Nasdaq Stock Market

was

3Com

, lately up 5.4% on 29 million shares. The company's child,

Palm

(PALM)

, which gained 150% in its inaugural day of trading, was getting taken down a bit today, lately off 15.8%, on 13 million shares.

The

New York Stock Exchange's

most active stock was

Compaq

(CPQ)

, up 6.6% on 29 million shares.

Market Internals

Breadth was positive on heavy volume.

New York Stock Exchange

: 1,654 advancers, 1,167 decliners, 638 million shares; 89 new 52-week highs, 86 new lows.

Nasdaq Stock Market

: 2,463 advancers, 1,538 decliners, 1.133 billion shares; 364 new highs, 47 new lows.