Stocks extend advance on strong job growth

A weekly jobs report March 7 appeared to A weekly jobs report March 7 appeared to bolster optimism that the Labor Department would signal continued hiring, and perhaps even reveal a downtick in the unemployment rate. (March 4, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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A burst of hiring in February pushed stocks higher on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 67.58 points Friday to close at 14,397.07. The index surpassed its previous record close Tuesday and logged a sixth straight increase.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.45 percent to 1,551.18. The Nasdaq composite advanced 0.38 percent to 3,244.37.

U.S. employers added 236,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent in January, the Labor Department reported.

That's far better than the 156,000 job gains and unemployment rate of 7.8 percent that economists surveyed by FactSet expected.

The strong job growth shows that employers are confident about the economy despite higher taxes and government spending cuts.

Optimism that hiring is picking up has bolstered the stock market this year. Stocks have also gained on evidence that the housing market is recovering and company earnings continue to grow.

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Stocks have also been boosted by continuing economic stimulus from the Federal Reserve. -- AP

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