NEW YORK – U.S. stocks on Friday notched weekly gains and the Dow Jones industrial average scored another record close, after data showed the nation’s jobless rate fell to a four-year low.
Employers added 236,000 jobs and unemployment fell to 7.7 percent in February from 7.9 percent the month before, the Labor Department said. Both the job additions and jobless rate were better than economists expected.
“We wouldn’t encourage investors to expect a two-tenths of a percent drop every month going forward, but a gradual decline during the rest of the year toward the 7 percent mark,” said Brad Sorensen, director of sector analysis at the Schwab Center for Financial Research, referring to the unemployment rate.
After climbing as much as 83 points during the session and extending a winning run into a sixth session that has had it closing at record highs in recent days, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 67.58 points, or 0.5 percent, to 14,397.07.
On the approach to its own all-time record, the S&P 500 index added 6.92 points, or 0.5 percent, at 1,551.18, with consumer discretionary leading gains.
Both the Dow and S&P 500 rose 2.2 percent for the week.
The Nasdaq composite rose 12.28 points, or 0.4 percent, to 3,244.37, leaving it 2.4 percent ahead of last week’s finish.
Stock futures had risen sharply after the release of the February jobs report, which supported the view that the economy can sustain increased taxes and steep cuts in federal spending.
“The jobs market appears to still be advancing, which is unquestionably positive, but we believe it’s still too early to conclude that the U.S. economy is out of the woods,” said Jim Baird, partner and chief investment officer for Plante Moran Financial Advisors.
“The full impact of recent tax increases and sequester-driven spending cuts has not yet been fully absorbed, and will gradually become more apparent in the months ahead,” Baird said.