Stocks broke higher in the afternoon session thanks to a rebound in the price of crude oil and as investors assessed a solid jobs report for April.
The S&P 500 closed up 0.41%, finishing at 2,399, a new record. The Nasdaq added 0.42%, also setting a new record high of 6,100. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.26%.
Crude oil held gains on Friday, a day after settling at its lowest level since Nov. 29. The crude selloff was largely tied to concerns over global oversupply.
Those concerns remained in the background on Friday, though, after oil and natural gas producers in the U.S. rose over the past week. The number of active rigs in the U.S. drilling for crude rose by seven in the past week, bringing the total rig count up to a total of 877 units, according to Baker Hughes. Production has risen for 12 weeks in a row.
West Texas Intermediate crude closed 1.5% higher at $46.22 a barrel on Friday.
Oil saw unusual trading patterns overnight, falling by more than $1 a barrel at one point. Jim Cramer assesses how significant the moves could be over on Real Money. Get a free trial subscription to Action Alerts PLUS.
The energy sector was among the best performers on Friday afternoon. Major oil producers including Exxon Mobil (XOM) , Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) , Chevron (CVX) , Total (TOT) , and BP (BP) rose on Friday, while the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) added 1.7%.
A solid April jobs report shored up the chances of a move on interest rates from the Federal Reserve next month. The U.S. nonfarm payrolls report showed more jobs added to the U.S. economy in April than economists expected and the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in a decade.
The U.S. economy added 211,000 new jobs in April, according to the Labor Department's nonfarm payrolls report.Around 185,000 jobs are expected to have been added to the U.S. economy in April, according to economists polled by FactSet. The unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 4.4% from 4.5%, rather than an anticipated increase to 4.6%. Average hourly wages rose 0.3%, as expected. The March jobs gain was reduced to 79,000 from 98,000, while the February gain was increased to 232,000 from 219,000.
"Today's jobs report continues the long-term trend of U.S. economic recovery and shows that last month's number was an anomaly," said Tony Bedikian, head of global markets at Citizens Bank. "The unemployment rate hit another new low and wages continue to improve."
The strong April jobs report is something of an outlier with pockets of economic weakness seen elsewhere in recent months. James "Rev Shark" Deporre teases out the issue over on our premium site Real Money.
The better-than-expected April report raised the prospects of an interest rate hike in June from the Federal Reserve. The chances of an increase in the federal funds rate to 1% to 1.25% at the June meeting increased to 79%, according to CME Group fed funds futures. Chances sat at 74% by the end of the day Thursday.
"This is another firm step towards a hike in June," said Luke Bartholomew, Aberdeen Asset Management investment strategist. "There's not much now to suggest we are anything but very close to full employment."
Dow component IBM (IBM) fell nearly 3% after billionaire investor Warren Buffett said he had reduced his stake. Buffett told CNBC on Thursday that he had sold around a third of his position in the company and said he did not "value IBM the same way that I did six years ago when I started buying."
In earnings, Cigna (CI) reported first-quarter results above Wall Street expectations. Net income grew to $2.30 a share from $2 in the same quarter a year earlier. Adjusted earnings of $2.77 a share came in above an expected $2.45. Revenue of $10.39 billion exceeded estimates of $10.12 billion. Cigna also raised its full-year adjusted earnings guidance. Shares increased 2%.
Separately, Anthem (ANTM) said on Friday that is currently in the process of filing a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to review a ruling on its proposed acquisition of Cigna. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia had ruled that the acquisition would restrict Americans' access to medical care.
A House vote to pass an amended health care bill passed the necessary threshold on Thursday afternoon. More than 216 House Republicans voted "yes"' on the Affordable Care Act repeal-and-replace bill. The bill will now be placed on the Senate floor for a vote. The bill has not yet been evaluated by the Congressional Budget Office, meaning lawmakers do not know how much it will cost and how many people it could throw off of health insurance.
The passage of health care reform is seen as a litmus test for the effectiveness of the Trump administration. Donald Trump promised massive tax reform and infrastructure spending on the campaign trail. So far, his administration's details of proposed tax changes have been scant.
"This is a good first step toward demonstrating that the Republican majority can come together and compromise on legislation," said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Cornerstone Financial Partners. "The broader implication for the market at large is the increased likelihood that tax reform can be passed sooner rather than later. This is the main takeaway and is a positive sign for equities to move higher this year."
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