Bulls Take the Reins in Tumultuous Trading

By FOXBusiness

FOX Business: The Power to Prosper

The markets capped a highly-volatile trading day with modest gains as falling commodity prices tempered optimism over better-than-expected job data.

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Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 54.6 points, or 0.43%, to 12,639, the S&P 500 was up 5.1 points, or 0.38%, to 1,340 and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 12.8 points, or 0.46%, to 2,828. The FOX 50 was higher by 2.2 points to 942.

The Dow closed out the week off 1.3%, the Nasdaq dropped 1.6% and the S&P 500 fell 1.7%.

Leading the way lower were energy and materials issues like Silver Wheaton (NYSE:SLW) and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), which were pressured by plummeting commodity prices.

"This doesn’t look like a short term dip" for commodities, said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald. As prices have fallen "you’ve seen that sector get hammered."

As optimism over strong first-quarter earnings has started to wane, focus has shifted back on to the economy. Indeed, the Labor Department's highly-watched monthly employment report was a major driver Friday's gains.

However, a media report that Greece was mulling leaving the Euro Zone as it struggles with its sovereign debt crisis weighed on shares domestically and abroad. The report was almost immediately denied by officials, but the effects still lingered.

Total non-farm payrolls increased by 244,000 in April, a far bigger gain than the 186,000 economists expected.  The unemployment rate grew to 9% as slightly more individuals entered the labor force.

"We characterize this as a reassuring jobs report in light of the recent softness in activity," wrote Michael Gapen, an economist at Barclays Capital, in a note.

The private sector added 268,000 jobs on the month, with most sectors adding jobs.  Average hourly earnings ticked up by 3 cents, or 0.1%, to $22.95 -- a gain of 1.9% over the past 12 months.

The labor force participation rate, which was steady at 64.2% for the month, but down 0.9% from the same period last year, potentially implying individuals are still discouraged from actively seeking employment.

Weekly claims for unemployment benefits have surged above the level generally seen as indicating expansion in the jobs market. Much of the growth in claims occurred after the Labor Department had already collected its sample, economists say.

"The sudden rise in initial jobless claims has raised concerns about the health of the U.S. labor market, " according to a research note by Goldman Sachs.

However, economists at Goldman and several other investment banks note temporary factors that were not mitigated by the usual seasonal adjustments equation added considerably to the gains there. Additionally, weekly jobless claims oftentimes don't correlate well with the broader survey the labor department conducts when developing its monthly report.

Still, the weekly jobless claims numbers released Thursday were sufficient to spook the markets, sparking a selloff in equities and commodities.  The Dow slid 139 points or 1.1% and oil prices plunged more than 8% under the $100 level after settling above $109 the prior day.

The downward pressure on commodities dulled Friday, but oil and gasoline were both down more than 9% for the week.  Light, sweet crude was down $2.62, or 2.6%, to $97.18.  Wholesale RBOB gasoline was off 1 cent, or 0.17%, to $3.09 a gallon, far off its Wednesday settle of $3.32.

In the physical markets, where commodities are delivered immediately, prices plunged.  Indeed, in the Dubai marketplace, oil prices fell more than 11% -- the biggest daily decline in more than a decade, according to analysts at Platts.

Consumer gasoline prices, which tend to lag significantly behind the futures markets, remain elevated compared to historical norms.  A gallon of regular gas cost $3.98 on average nationwide, up from $3.71 last month and $2.93 last year.

The metal markets have been highly volatile as well.  Gold gained $10.20, or 0.69%, to $1,492 a troy ounce.  Silver, which plunged 27% on the week, dropped 94 cents, or 2.6%, to $35.28 a troy ounce.

In currencies, the U.S. dollar staged a minor comeback -- jumping 3.2% on the week against the euro.

Indications from the European Central Bank that they might take longer-than-expected to start significantly tightening short-term interest rates has helped bolster the dollar in recent sessions. In addition, despite official denial, media reports that Greece was contemplating leaving the Euro Zone significantly pressured the euro.

Corporate News

Access Industries revealed plans to acquire Warner Music Group (NYSE:WMG) in an all-cashe transaction worth $3.3 billion.

Sony (NYSE:SNE) apologized to the millions of users whose data were compromised in a massive hacking attack levied against the company.

Constellation Energy (NYSE:CEG) unveiled first-quarter profits of $70.4 million, or 35 cents a share, down from $191.5 million the prior year.  Excluding one-time costs, the company earned 63 cents a share, well below the 96 cents analysts expected.

Foreign Markets

The English FTSE 100 was up 0.96% to 5,978, the French CAC 40 was up 1.3% to 4,058 and the German DAX was higher by 1.6% to 7,492.

In Asia, the Chinese Hang Seng was off 0.44% to 23,159 and the Japanese Nikkei 225 slid 1.5% to 9,859 after being closed the prior two days.

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