Market Wrap: Upbeat Jobless Data Give Stocks a Needed Boost

The Cast Of Nurse Jackie Ring The NYSE Opening Bell
Ben Gabbe/Getty ImagesCast members and executive producers of "Nurse Jackie" with Edie Falco, center, ring the opening bell Friday at the New York Stock Exchange.

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks bounced Thursday after two days of declines following encouraging data on the labor market, but mixed data this week kept uncertainty high before Friday's key payrolls report.

The S&P consumer discretionary index, up 0.7 percent, was among the day's better-performing indexes, helped by gains in CarMax (KMX) shares. The stock jumped 9.3 percent to $74.73 following stronger-than-expected results.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week. The report followed lower-than-expected readings on private sector employment and manufacturing Wednesday.

%VIRTUAL-pullquote-It's safe to say there's quite a of bit of uncertainty in the market and you're kind of seeing that translate into a lot of volatility with not a lot of direction.%That has given a mixed picture of the economy ahead of the March jobs report, due Friday, when the stock market is closed. Stock investors will be unable to trade off the report until Monday.

The Federal Reserve has said it won't raise interest rates until it deems the economy strong enough to withstand such a move, which will raise borrowing costs and possibly crimp spending. A below-consensus jobs number Friday could ease concerns of a nearer-term rate rise, strategists said.

The S&P and Dow closed with slight gains for the week and the Nasdaq ended down.

"It's safe to say there's quite a of bit of uncertainty in the market and you're kind of seeing that translate into a lot of volatility with not a lot of direction," said Joe Bell, senior equity analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 65.06 points, or 0.37 percent, to 17,763.24, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) gained 7.27 points, or 0.35 percent, to 2,066.96 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 6.71 points, or 0.14 percent, to 4,886.94.

Movers and Shakers

Shares of Motorola Solutions (MSI) fell 6.2 percent to $62.51. Bloomberg reported the company has failed to find a buyer after seeking to raise interest from private equity funds and large industrial companies, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Energy shares ended up 0.2 percent despite lower crude prices. Oil fell after a preliminary pact between Iran and global powers on Tehran's nuclear program, even as officials set further talks in June and analysts questioned when the OPEC member will be allowed to export more crude.

The release of the jobs report has only coincided with Good Friday four times since 1999, according to data from Bespoke, most recently in 2012. Analysts expect 245,000 jobs added in the month, down from 295,000 in February.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,923 to 1,101, for a 1.75-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,643 issues rose and 1,092 fell, for a 1.50-to-1 ratio.

The S&P 500 posted 19 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the Nasdaq composite recorded 104 new highs and 35 new lows.

About 5.8 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.4 billion daily average for the last five trading sessions, according to BATS Global Markets.

What to watch Friday:

  • U.S. stock markets are closed for Good Friday.

  • The Labor Department releases employment data for March at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.

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