Stocks Finish Week With More Gains After Jobs Data

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Stocks closed modesty higher Friday after wrestling with a disappointing reading on job growth even as the unemployment rate unexpectedly plunged.

The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) rose 30 points, or 0.3%, to close at 12,092. The broader S&P 500 ($INX) gained 4 points, or 0.3%, to finish at 1,311. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite ($COMPX) added 15 points, or 0.6%, to close at 2,769.

January's wicked winter weather apparently played havoc with the government's employment situation report, as the economy added only 36,000 non-farm payrolls last month. Economists were looking for payroll growth of 148,000. Even more surprising was an unexpected plunge in the unemployment rate to 9%, a 21-month low.

"The shock to the whole market was that 9% number," says
Ben Willis, director of floor operations at Sunrise Securities Corp. "That really stunned professional traders when we watched that number come in against expectations. It would appear that the individuals at the Bureau of Labor Statistics were snowed in and didn't see past the streets of Washington last month."

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Despite the inconclusive jobs report, the Dow manged to finish the week at a level last seen in June of 2008. More important, the market cleared a key technical hurdle, Willis says.

"From a professional trader's perspective, I'd rather close above 1,310 on the S&P 500," says Willis. "The equivalent would be about 12,100 in the Dow. That should allow us to continue moving up."

Eventually, however, the market will have to have a "natural and healthy pullback," the veteran New York Stock Exchange trader says.

"Just like you have to prune a rosebush to keep it blossoming, the market has to do the same thing," says Willis.

For more on Willis's view from the floor of the NYSE, see the video above.
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