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Feb 04, 2012, 02.09 PM IST | Source: Reuters

Dow Jones closes at 4-year high; jobless rate drops to 8.3%

A surge in hiring in the world's largest economy last month drove US stocks higher on Friday, with the Nasdaq hitting an 11-year high as optmism grew that the labor market is on a steady path to recovery.

Dow Jones closes at 4-year high; jobless rate drops to 8.3%

A surge in hiring in the world's largest economy last month drove US stocks higher on Friday, with the Nasdaq hitting an 11-year high as optimism grew that the labor market is on a steady path to recovery.

The broad-based gains on solid trading volume also sent the Dow Jones industrial near a four-year high. The S&P 500 extended its 2012 advance to about 7%.

The US economy created jobs at the fastest pace in nine months in January and the unemployment rate dropped to nearly a three-year low of 8.3%, the government said.

"It was just another report that shows that the economy is healing," said Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at John Thomas Financial in New York. "Businesses that are in motion are doing pretty well."

More than 450 stocks across all sectors hit 52-week highs, including Apple, United Parcel Service, Yum Brands and MasterCard. The number of NYSE stocks making new 52-week highs was at it highest since July.

Kaufman said he was having a hard time identifying stocks that did not show signs of being overextended. "Seventy four percent of stocks are over their own 200-day moving average. Those are bull-market statistics," he said.

Consumer discretionary shares and other stocks tied to an expanding economy led gains. Financial shares rose 2.3%, while industrials and discretionaries added 1.7% to 1.8%.

In another report signaling strength, the pace of growth in the services sector unexpectedly accelerated in January to its highest level in nearly a year.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 156.82 points, or 1.23%, to 12,862.20. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 19.36 points, or 1.46%, to 1,344.90. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 45.98 points, or 1.61%, to 2,905.66.

Signs of an improving economy and an absence of bad news from Europe have helped Wall Street stocks rally since last year.

So far this week the S&P is up 2% and on track for its fifth week of gains in a row. The Dow has risen 1.5% and the Nasdaq, also set for a fifth straight winning week, is up 3% and heading for the best week since early December.

Nonfarm payrolls jumped 243,000, the Labor Department said on Friday, as factory jobs grew by the most in a year. The jobless rate fell to 8.3% - the lowest since February 2009 - from 8.5% in December.

Four stocks rose for each one that fell on both the Nasdaq and NYSE. Volume on the NYSE, Amex, and Nasdaq was 5.41 billion shares, on course to exceed the daily 200-day moving average of 7.75 billion in a sign of greater participation than on recent days.

More than half way through the earnings season, 60% of S&P 500 companies that have reported have beaten expectations according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data.

Gilead Sciences was one of the top gainers on the S&P 500, up 11.3% to USD 54.88 a day after announcing promising early results from a trial of a hepatitis C drug. It also posted adjusted fourth-quarter profit below consensus.

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