Updated from 4:08 p.m. ESTStrong employment data finally materialized Friday and investors celebrated, bidding farewell to bonds and buying up stocks. The tech-powered Nasdaq led the session's gains, closing up 42.16 points, or 2.09%, comfortably above its 2000-mark at 2057.17. Semiconductors provided strength, with the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index up 3.74%. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 97.26 points, or 0.94%, to 10,470.59, and the S&P 500 rose 9.63 points, or 0.85%, to 1141.80. Volume was heavy, with more than 1.6 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, where advancers had a slight edge on decliners. On the Nasdaq, almost 2.2 billion shares changed hands and advancers dominated decliners by about 7 to 2. In fixed-income, the 10-year Treasury note, which was flat ahead of the report, was off 2 3/32, with the yield leaping to 4.14% from 3.89%. The dollar surged against the yen and the euro, and crude oil futures climbed while gold declined. "People are talking a lot about the Nasdaq at the 2000 level, and it's nice to see the psychological benefit that that offers because it tells you that there is demand out there for stocks at these valuations," said John Bollinger, president of Bollinger Capital Management. "We need a lot of growth to justify these valuations, and we're getting a lot of growth-type numbers. The real issue that the market's going to have to wrestle with is earnings, and we're just breaking into a new earnings season here." Bollinger doesn't give much credence to the employment surveys, but he admitted that today's good news made him a "happy camper." "The numbers are questionable at best, but nonetheless, they have a great deal of psychological importance," he said. "Everybody believed that we were going to have a jobless recovery, and such a thing doesn't exist. The fact is that we're in a cyclical bull market, and we had a little consolidation and correction in the context of that bull market, and now it looks like we're back to the bullish business again." The government said nonfarm payrolls jumped 308,000 in March, the most in four years and more than twice what was expected. The average expectation of economists was for a gain of roughly 120,000 jobs. The strong March number came with upward revisions in January and February payrolls. January's figure was changed to 159,000, from the previously reported 97,000, while February's was raised to 46,000 from 21,000. The jobless rate inched up to 5.7%, from 5.6% in February. "So much has been riding on employment to continue to fuel the consumer that even the other fears that were hampering people, like terrorism and things like that, were nothing compared to the low employment," said Peter Dunay, chief market strategist at Wall Street Access. "This should make them feel a little bit better, especially since it's across the board. With so many eyes on employment now, this is really a big positive here." The big number may be rocket fuel for the market but may renew questions about when the Federal Reserve will finally raise interest rates, even though it is a presidential election year. "The conditions are so ripe for improved hiring that it's not going to take six months to convince people that we're hiring," said Russell Sheldon, managing director of economic research at BMO Nesbitt Burns. Sheldon, who had forecast job growth of 175,000 in March, said, "The kindling is there, and one match could start a fire."
The Nasdaq added 5% for the week, while the Dow rose 2.5%. Both indices posted their second weekly gain in a row, while the S&P had its first winning week in the last four, up 3%. In March, the Dow lost 2%, and while April has been good to blue-chips so far, the index is still down more than 1% from where it ended February. The S&P lost 1.6% in March and is still off 0.3% from where it started the month. But the Nasdaq, after losing 1.7% in March, is now up 1.3% from its close on Feb. 27 after starting April with a two-day, 63-point rally. Among individual stocks, Sun Microsystems ( SUNW) lowered its third-quarter guidance, announced plans for a major restructuring, and said Thursday it settled its long-running legal battle with Microsoft ( MSFT) over patents and unfair competition. The company said it would cut 3,300 jobs and record a $475 million charge, including $200 million in the third quarter, for the job cuts and portfolio capacity reductions. Its stock closed up 87 cents, or 20.8%, to $5.06. Lucent ( LU) was up 15 cents, or 3.5%, to $4.38 after being upgraded to neutral by J.P. Morgan. "The company has realigned its cost structure with the current revenue opportunity," J.P. Morgan said. Pathmark Stores ( PTMK) reported a jump in fourth-quarter earnings, meeting expectations. It earned $9.6 million, or 32 cents a share, compared with $7.9 million, or 26 cents a share, in the same quarter last year. Its shares closed up 11 cents, or 1.3%, to $8.50. Schnitzer Steel ( SCHN) was 15.9% higher after saying Thursday that second-quarter earnings more than doubled to 89 cents a share. Shares added $5.10 to $37.22. Fannie Mae ( FNM) and Freddie Mac ( FRE) could see pressure after the Senate Banking Committee approved a bill that would tighten oversight of the federally chartered mortgage merchants. The measure calls for a new entity to regulate the companies, and tougher standards for their capital structure. The bill came two days after the current regulator, the Office of Housing Enterprise Oversight, raised the possibility that Fannie Mae could have to restate earnings because of issues related to the way it values impaired assets on its balance sheet. XM Satellite Radio ( XMSR) added 320,000 subscribers in the first quarter, bringing its total to 1.7 million. It is on track to reach 2.8 million subscribers by the end of the year. Its shares rose $1.52, or 5.4%, to $29.86. Sirius Satellite Radio ( SIRI) was rising in sympathy with the news, closed up 9 cents, or 2.6%, to $3.55. Walt Disney ( DIS) gained 2.4% after reports that Michael Eisner, speaking to a group of analysts, affirmed the company's 2004 guidance for a 30% increase in operating earnings in 2004. Its shares added 60 cents to $25.95. Overseas markets added to earlier gains, with London's FTSE 100 closing up 1.2% to 4466 and Germany's Xetra DAX up 2.1% to 4008. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei closed up 1.1% to 11,816, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.4% to 12,732. No earnings releases are scheduled for Monday, the beginning of a four-day trading week as the markets will observe Good Friday on April 9. At 10 a.m. EST, the Institute of Supply Management is expected to report that its index measuring economic activity in the services sector rose slightly in March to 61 from 60.8.