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Published Friday, November 08, 2013

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US stocks gain after jobs report shows a surprise surge in hiring last month; Banks rise

By KEN SWEET and STEVE ROTHWELL AP Markets Writers , The Associated Press - NEW YORK

An unexpectedly strong jobs report gave stocks a lift on Friday.

The gains were led by banks, such as Bank of America and JPMorgan, which stand to benefit from a pickup in lending as the economy strengthens. Consumer-focused stocks such as Priceline.com and Disney also rose after reporting higher profits, and Gap soared after raising its earnings forecast.

The jobs survey left investors grappling with how to interpret this week's surprisingly strong economic data and what it means for the Federal Reserve's economic stimulus program. On Thursday the government reported that U.S. economic growth accelerated in the third quarter. The Fed's stimulus has helped power this year's stock rally.

"We're walking a tight wire with the Fed," said Rob Lutts, Chief Investment Officer at Cabot Money Management. Lutts said the job survey was positive because it showed the economy was improving, but perhaps not strongly enough to assure that Fed policymakers will pull back on its bond-buying program before the end of year.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 15 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,762 as of 12:50 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 88 points, or 0.1 percent, to 15,604. The Nasdaq composite rose 52 points, or 1 percent, to 3,896.

The reaction to the jobs report was more notable in the bond market than in the stock market. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note jumped to its highest level in three weeks as investors sold bonds. Rising interest rates are also a boon to banks because it means that they can lend to their customers at higher rates.

The yield on the 10-year note jumped to 2.75 percent from 2.60 percent on Thursday, its highest level in more than a month. JPMorgan Chase rose $1.80, or 3.5 percent, to $53.45. Goldman Sachs gained $2.46, or 1.54 percent, to $162.10.

Housing stocks were among the biggest decliners on Friday.

Higher Treasury yields lead to higher mortgage rates, and that in turn can hurt demand for homes. Lennar fell $1.68, or 4.9 percent, to $32.59. PulteGroup dropped 70 cents, or 3.3 percent, to $16.81.

The government reported that U.S. employers added 204,000 jobs in October, an unexpected burst of hiring during a month in which the federal government was partially shut down for 16 days. The job additions were far greater than the 130,000 economists were expecting, according to FactSet, a financial data provider.

It was the second piece of unexpectedly robust economic news that Wall Street received in the past two days. The Commerce Department said Thursday that the U.S. economy grew at a 2.8 percent annualized rate in the third quarter, better than the 2.5 percent rate economists were looking for.

The Federal Reserve has been buying $85 billion worth of bonds each month since last December to keep long-term interest rates low and boost the economy. The program has also helped drive up stock prices by making bonds look expensive by comparison.

Some investors believe that the Fed now has enough evidence that the U.S. economy is doing better to start scaling back its bond purchases as soon as its next regularly scheduled meeting Dec. 17-18.

Among other stocks making big moves:

_ Gap rose $3.19, or 8.5 percent, to $40.92 after the retailer reported solid gains in sales for October and gave an upbeat profit forecast for its third quarter.

_ Priceline rose $48.65, or 4.7 percent, to $1,071 after the online booking company said its profit rose 40 percent in the third quarter, as bookings for flights, rental cars and hotels rose.

_ Twitter fell $1.74, or 3.9 percent, to $42.23 on the social media company's second day of trading. The stock surged 73 percent above its IPO price on Thursday.

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