Propelled by a strong jobs report, the Dow Jones Industrial Average moved north for the sixth day in a row, and set a new record for the fourth consecutive session. The blue chips finished Friday up 67 points, or 0.5%, to 14,397.
The Labor Department's employment report showed that 236,000 jobs were added in February, well ahead of projections of just 160,000, and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7%, its lowest level since December 2008. Private-sector jobs increased by 246,000 in the month. The all-around positive numbers showed strong increases in construction, retail, and the auto industries. Notably, the size of the labor force declined slightly from January, indicating that more people are dropping out of the labor force than joining. The number of unemployed Americans dropped by 300,000 in the month, a substantial decline. Still, some economists warned that one month's data does not make a trend and, with sequestration on the way, economic growth could slow.
Disney led the bull run today, climbing 1.9%, on big hopes for its new release, Oz: The Great and Powerful, a prequel to the classic The Wizard of Oz, which opens in theaters today. Boxoffice.com projects the movie could bring in as much as $75 million this weekend. The success of the release could also be a harbinger for Disney's next Star Wars movie, which plays on a similar penchant for nostalgia by casting the stars from the original, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford.
McDonald's shares were also up today, gaining 1.7%, as February same-store sales declined, but not by as much as expected. Comparable sales for the month dropped 1.5%, while the average projection was 1.63%. However, factoring out Leap Day last year, comps were actually up 1.7%. U.S. sales were flat.
Financial stocks underperformed today, despite the strong jobs report, as investors reacted to the results of the Fed's stress tests, which came out last night. While the results were generally strong, bank stocks had risen in anticipation of the report earlier in the week. Bank of America was the biggest loser today, falling 1.5%, after leading the Dow higher in the two previous sessions. JPMorgan Chase dropped 0.9%, while Citigroup bucked the trend, with particularly strong results, and gained 3.7%. Next week, the Fed will decide which banks are allowed to return capital to shareholders. Bank of America shareholders are hoping for the green light, as their quarterly dividend stands at just a penny.
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Fool contributor Jeremy Bowman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends McDonald's and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co., McDonald's, and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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