NEW YORK – Stronger reports on jobs and manufacturing boosted stocks Thursday ahead of the government’s March employment report.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 70 points to a 2010 high on the final day of a shortened week. The stock market was closed Friday and the bond market closed early for Good Friday.
Major stock indexes rose for a fifth straight week, giving the Dow its longest winning streak since mid-April last year.
Confidence grew Thursday after the Labor Department said that initial claims for unemployment benefits fell last week. A four-week average of clams dropped to its lowest level in 18 months.
Manufacturing figures also raised expectations that a recovery is gaining steam. A trade group’s report found that U.S. manufacturing grew in March at the fastest pace in 5 1/2 years. Manufacturing reports from China and Europe also indicated that factories are busier.
Then on Friday the Labor Department said employers added 162,000 jobs in March. Economists had forecast an increase of 190,000 jobs. However, private employers accounted for most of the growth. The market has been climbing with little interruption for a year. In the past seven weeks, the gains have been marked by steady increases that are adding up. The Dow on Wednesday wrapped up its strongest first quarter since 1999.
Stocks rose at the start of the week after the government reported that consumer spending rose for a fifth straight month in February. That raised expectations for a recovery in the economy. The market inched higher Tuesday. On Wednesday, a modest drop in stocks did little to damage a strong quarter. The Dow gained 4.1 percent, its best first-quarter performance since 1999. The S&P 500 rose 4.9 percent for its best first-quarter since 1998.
For the week, the Dow Jones U.S. Total Stock Market Index – which measures nearly all U.S.-based companies – ended at 12,124.40, up 120.46, or 1 percent.