Futures Zip Higher on Strong Jobs Data

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Wall Street was poised to kick off the day deep in the green as traders responded to considerably better-than-expected data on the U.S. labor market and strong results from stress tests on banks.

Today's Markets

As of 8:36 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 77 points to 14393, S&P 500 futures gained 6.8 points to 1550 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 10.5 points to 2810.

The markets are on a roll. The Dow climbed for its fifth day in a row on Thursday, ending in record territory for the third-straight session. The broad S&P 500 is at a five-year high, and only 1.3% off its record close.

The Department of Labor said non-farm payrolls increased 236,000 in February, pushing the unemployment rate down to 7.7% -- the lowest since December 2008 -- from 7.9% in January. Economists were expecting an increase of 160,000 jobs with the rate holding steady at 7.9%.

There have been questions recently about whether the Fed will begin tapering off quantitative easing if the economy starts picking up steam. However, recent statements by Chairman Ben Bernanke and Vice Chairman Janet Yellen have suggested that the central bank sees the economy as still fragile enough to require aggressive easing.

Sentiment also got another boost after the closing bell on Thursday when the Federal Reserve published the results of its stress tests on the largest U.S. banks. Out of 18 banks whose financials were put through a hypothetical financial and economic crisis, only one, Ally Financial, fared poorly. Among the banks that received passing marks were the nation's four biggest: J.P. Morgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Citigroup (NYSE:C) and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC).

"Markets are reacting to positive news from America last night, as US banks displayed their resilience in the latest stress tests," Brenda Kelly, a market analyst at IG Index in London wrote in an e-mail. Kelly also pointed to strong data out of China as an impetus for the gains seen in global markets.

The world's No. 2 economy saw its exports climb at a year-to-year pace of 21.8% in February, just slightly under the 25% growth the year before. Economists expected a much lower reading of 8.1% annual expansion.

Later in the morning, traders will get a read on wholesale inventories for the month of February. Inventories are seen as a leading indicator of demand.

In commodities, oil prices edged lower amid a stronger dollar. The benchmark U.S. contract fell 45 cents, or 0.49%, to $91.14 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline jumped 0.77% to $3.146 a gallon. Gold was essentially unchanged at $1,575 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 jumped 0.94% to 2716, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.27% to 6457 and the German DAX rose 0.57% to 7985.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 surged 2.6% to 12284 and the Chinese Hang Seng rallied 1.4% to 23092.