Stock Futures Soar on Strong Jobs Report

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Stock-index futures leaped higher as traders reacted to a significantly better-than-expected read on the U.S. jobs market.

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Today's Markets

As of 9:24 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 119 points to 12783, S&P 500 futures gained 13.3 points to 1336 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 23 points to 2515.

The U.S. economy added 243,000 jobs in January, blowing past estimates of 150,000 jobs created and marking the largest increase since April 2011. The private sector added 257,000 jobs, while the government shed 14,000, the data show.

"Job growth was widespread in the private sector, with large employment gains in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing," the Labor Department said in a statement.

The unemployment rate fell to 8.3%, the lowest rate since February 2009, from 8.5% the month prior.

"This is unquestionably a positive report in nearly every way," Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG, wrote in an e-mail to clients.

The labor market has been slowly recovering after being thrashed during the financial crisis. The unemployment rate peaked in October 2009 at 10% and policymakers from across the board have said they are frustrated with the rate of improvement. Indeed, speaking before a the House Budget Committee on Thursday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke described the central bank's dissatisfaction with the progress. The Fed has pushed down hard on the economic accelerator, knocking interest rates down to historic lows, unleashing two rounds of enormous asset buying and taking other, more technical, measures.

"An easy argument could be made that monetary policy, which has been extraordinarily accommodative, is beginning to show through in the broad economic data," Greenhaus wrote.

In fact, fed fund futures, which are a gauge of public expectations of the Fed's moves, show a 64% chance of a 0.5-percentage point hike in mid-2014, up from a 46% chance before the data, according to Dow Jones Newswires. The Fed has previously said it will hold rates at extraordinarily low levels until 2014.

Two other economic releases are on tap for later in the morning. The private sector may have expanded in January, economists said ahead of the 10:00 a.m. report from the Institute for Supply Management. A separate report at the same time from the Commerce Department is forecast to show factory orders jumped 1.5% in December from the month prior.

Manufacturing in Great Britain unexpectedly picked up steam in January from December. The country's PMI gauge rose to 56 from 54, compared to expectations of 53.5.

The report "has buoyed hopes that the U.K. will skirt around another recession," David Jones, chief market strategist at London-based IG Index wrote in an e-mail. The European country, while not a member of the euro currency bloc, has still been weighed down by the continent's debt crisis.

The euro gained 0.15% to $1.3164, while the U.S. dollar fell 0.08% against a basket of six world currencies tracked by the dollar index.

Commodities markets were mixed. The benchmark crude oil contract traded in New York rose 52 cents, or 0.51%, to $96.86 a barrel. Wholesale RBOB gasoline jumped 1.2% to $2.904 a gallon.

In metals, gold fell $6.30, or 0.36%, to $1,753 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips climbed 1%, the English FTSE 100 rose 1.4% to 5,875 and the German DAX gained 1.5% to 6,757.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slipped 0.51% to 8,832 and the Chinese Hang Seng rose 0.08% to 20,757.

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