Stocks Eke Out Gain as Dollar Trumps Jobs Data

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The bulls on Wall Street fended off a serious economic assault on Friday, using a tumbling U.S. dollar to counter concerns triggered by a November jobs report that was far worse than even the most bearish forecasts.

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Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 19.68 points, or 0.17%, to 11382.09, the Standard & Poor's 500 gained 3.18 points, 0.26%, to 1224.71 and the Nasdaq Composite jumped 12.11 points, or 0.47%, to 2591.46. The FOX 50 advanced 0.69 points, or 0.08%, to 874.55.

Wall Street suffered just a fleeting selloff Friday morning after the Labor Department said the U.S. added 100,000 fewer jobs in November than had been expected and the unemployment rate jumped to a seven-month high.

“It’s hard to fathom why we aren’t getting more of a selloff,” said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Capital Group, crediting the dollar for creating a “counterbalance.”

Inspired by the sharply weaker U.S. dollar, which is seen as a helpful sign for commodities and exports, the markets quickly bounced back and managed to tack onto a two-day surge that lifted the Dow 350 points. The ugly jobs report also boosted hopes for additional stimulus measures from Congress and the Federal Reserve.

After opening mostly in the red, the majority of the Dow's 30 stocks landed in positive territory, led by DuPont (NYSE:DD) and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC). The index's worst performers were Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO).

The Nasdaq Composite outperformed the broader markets, closing modestly higher as tech stocks like Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) and Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN) advanced.

Most of the focus was on the labor markets on Friday as the Labor Department said nonfarm payrolls rose by just 39,000 jobs in November, a big drop-off from October's 172,000 and not even remotely close to consensus calls from economists for 140,000. Even the most bearish of 67 economists polled had forecasted growth of 97,000. The government also said the unemployment rate unexpectedly jumped from 9.6% to 9.8%.

The U.S. private sector added just 50,000 jobs in November, 102,000 fewer than economists had predicted and well off October's 160,000. In another ominous sign, the average weekly earnings were unchanged, missing calls for a rise of 0.2%.

"The markets have gotten very excited over the past few weeks on the improving data and today was a bit of a slap to those hopes. With this said, the economy is continue to recover but the path will remain very bumpy," Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak, wrote in a note.

Hurt by the dreary jobs report, the U.S. dollar fell sharply, highlighted by the euro surging 1.41% to $1.3408. Those dollar losses helped mitigate the declines on Wall Street by keeping commodities afloat and boosting hopes for greater exports from companies like General Electric (NYSE:GE).

Wall Street received mixed headlines on the rest of the domestic economy. The Institute for Supply Management said its non-manufacturing activity index rose last month to 55, slightly beating estimates and marking the highest level since May. The employment component of the index reached levels unseen since October 2007, two months before the Great Recession began.

Also on the economic front, the government downwardly revised October durable goods orders from a rise of 3.5% to a decline of 3.4% -- the biggest drop since January 2009. The Commerce Department said U.S. factory orders slid 0.9% in October, nearly matching estimates. Excluding transportation, orders were down 0.2%.

In the commodities complex, crude oil jumped to a two-year high of $89.19, up $1.19 a barrel, or 1.35%. Gold rose $16.90 a troy ounce, or 1.22%, to $1,405.40.

Corporate Movers

Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) is considering ending its three-year experience in the mortgage-servicing business by unloading its Litton Loan division, the Financial Times reported. While Goldman has already been approached by a potential buyer, talks fell apart over price as the bank is unwilling to accept a "cut-rate" deal, the paper reported. Goldman acquired Litton in 2007 for about $470 million.

Big Lots (NYSE:BIG) slumped 5% after revealing a steeper-than-expected 42% decline in third-quarter profits and EPS of 23 cents. Analysts had called for EPS of 24 cents. Big Lots also trimmed its fourth-quarter EPS guidance to a range of $1.36 to $1.42.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) acquired the 2.9-million-square-foot property that houses its New York City offices for $1.9 billion, marking the most expensive building purchase in the U.S. this year, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Global Markets

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 rose 0.39% to 5745.32, Germany's DAX fell 0.14% to 6947.72 and France's CAC 40 closed up 0.09% to 3750.55.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.10% to 10178.30, Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 0.55% and China's Shanghai Composite inched lower by 0.04% to 2842.43.

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