Strong US jobs report triggers stock market rally

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Stock rally

(AP Photo)

LONDON (AP) — Stock markets rallied on Friday, with both the Dow and S&P hitting new highs, after an unexpectedly strong U.S. jobs report indicated the world’s largest economy is not slowing down, as some had feared.

The Labor Department said a net 165,000 jobs were created in April, above the market expectations for 140,000. The previous two months’ weak figures, meanwhile, were revised up. That helped bring the unemployment rate down to 7.5 percent, the lowest in four years.

Paul Ashworth, the chief U.S. economist for Capital Economics, said the report “will go a long way towards soothing fears of another spring slowdown.”

By early afternoon in Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 1 percent at 6,524.31 while Germany’s DAX was 1.7 percent higher at 8,100.47. France’s CAC-40 rose 1.2 percent to 3,905.93.

On Wall Street, the Dow was up 1.2 percent to 15,007.40, the first time it has traded above the 15,000 mark. The broader S&P 500 was 1.3 percent higher at 1,618.32, another first.

The jobs report helped offset news that the European Union had downgraded its economic forecasts. In its spring update, the EU said it expected the 17-country eurozone’s economy to shrink 0.4 percent this year, 0.1 percentage points worse than its February prediction.

It expects markedly weaker growth in Germany, the region’s biggest economy, and a contraction in France, the second-largest. The fact that the economic slowdown is affecting the larger economies could push the ECB to cut interest rates again, or provide some new measures of support to credit markets in coming months.

Earlier, in Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.1 percent to close at 22,689.96. South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.4 percent to 1,965.71 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was nearly unchanged at 5,129.50.

Mainland Chinese stocks posted sharp gains, but that was likely due to bargain-hunting after a sharp fall the day before. The Shanghai Composite Index jumped 1.4 percent to 2,205.5 while the Shenzhen Composite Index gained 2 percent to 936.58.

Markets in Japan were closed for a public holiday.

In commodity markets, the benchmark oil contract for June delivery was up $1.96 to $95.95 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $2.96, or 3.3 percent, on Thursday, the biggest one-day gain for crude since November.

In currencies, the euro rose 0.4 percent to $1.3113, recovering somewhat from sharp losses the day before, when the European Central Bank on Thursday cut interest rates. The dollar rose 1.1 percent against the Japanese yen, to 98.98 yen.

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