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Stocks little changed after jobs data released

Bloomberg News

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NEW YORK: U.S. stocks rose, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index erasing losses to close at a record, as data showing stronger-than-forecast jobs growth overshadowed concern the situation in Ukraine could worsen.

The S&P 500 rose 0.1 percent to a record 1,878.04 in New York. The index erased losses of as much as 0.3 percent in the final hour of trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 30.83 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,452.72. About 6.9 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, 4 percent above the three-month average. The Nasdaq composite lost 15.90 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,336.22.

“The economy is continuing to gradually improve,” said Chad Morganlander, a fund manager at Stifel Nicolaus & Co., which oversees about $150 billion of assets. “ ... We’ve had very good market performance over the last several weeks in spite of great uncertainty on the geopolitical front.”

The S&P 500 added 1 percent for the week.

Friday’s jobs report showed the 175,000 gain in employment last month followed a revised 129,000 increase in January that was bigger than initially estimated. The jobless rate unexpectedly climbed from a five-year low, rising to 6.7 percent from 6.6 percent.

The report “is obviously good news and it suggests the economy remains on an upward track,” said Alan Gayle, a senior strategist at RidgeWorth Capital Management in Richmond, Va.

The figures showed 601,000 Americans weren’t at work because of weather during the survey week, the most since 2010, the report indicated.

The Federal Reserve is trying to determine how much of the recent economic cooling has been due to weather, which means the outlook for monetary policy may not become clearer until March data become available. Reports including housing and hiring missed economists’ forecasts in December and January amid severe winter weather.

Data this week showed manufacturing expanded at a faster pace than projected in February, while consumer spending rose in January at a better rate than forecast.

Fed Bank of New York President William C. Dudley said Friday he sees a “reasonably favorable” outlook for the U.S. economy, even as elevated joblessness and too-low inflation warrant a high level of stimulus for a “considerable time.”

Three rounds of Fed stimulus have helped push the S&P 500 up 178 percent from a 12-year low, as U.S. equities are set to enter the sixth year of a bull market that began March 9, 2009.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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