Stocks halted a three-session losing streak Friday as traders found little to worry about in a stronger-than-expected April employment report.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose as much as 119 points before finishing 78.47 higher at 9,055.15, down 91.92 for the week. The barometer of 30 blue-chip companies had lost 215 points over the prior three sessions after closing at a record 9,192.66 on Monday.Broader stock indexes also began rebounding amid what many analysts termed only a temp-orary respite from the renewed concerns about interest rates and continuing economic instability in Asia.
The Nasdaq market posted the sharpest gain as bellwether technology stocks roared back to life.
In the most anxiously awaited event of the week, the Labor Department reported early Friday that the unemployment rate fell to a 28-year low of 4.3 percent in April as the U.S. economy created 262,000 new jobs. The report also showed average hourly earnings rose 4 cents to a record $12.67.
The data was stronger than expected, but not so much that it could instantly resolve a two-week debate over whether the inflation-leery Federal Reserve might slow the economy with higher interest rates.
Fed officials, who are due to convene on May 19 for a policy meeting, have been concerned for some time that a strong job market may force employers to boost wages - and prices.
"Overall, while the Fed will remain vigilant, there was nothing in today's report to trigger an imminent rate hike," said Sherry Cooper, chief economist for Nesbitt Burns.
However, until the May 19 meeting passes without event, the market may remain locked in the tight trading range seen in recent weeks.
"The message of market for two weeks is that this is still a bull market, but it's a bull market that has rallied 22 percent from its January low to its recent high," said Alfred E. Goldman, director of market analysis at A.G. Edwards & Sons of St. Louis. "The best of athletes and the best of bulls have to rest from time to time."
Leading the Dow's advance were Merck, up 2 7/8 to 117 7/8; IBM, up 2 7/8 to 120; and American Express, up 2 1/16 to 101 11/16.
The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 13.00 to 1,108.14, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 29.23 to 1,864.37, led by Dell Computer, up 51/8 to 913/4; Intel, up 3 1/16 to 84 1/16; and Microsoft, up 23/8 to 853/4.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by an 8-to-5 margin on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume totaled 567.89 million shares, down from Thursday's pace.
The NYSE composite index rose 5.50 to 575.72, and the American Stock Exchange composite index rose 1.98 to 744.23.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 3.54 to 479.50.
Overseas, Tokyo's Nikkei stock average edged higher, Frankfurt's DAX index rose 1.4 percent and London's FT-SE 100 rose 0.5 per-cent.