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Stocks gain on solid November jobs report

Traders Fred DeMarco, left, and Greg Mulligan work

Traders Fred DeMarco, left, and Greg Mulligan work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Friday, Dec. 4, 2015. Credit: AP / Richard Drew

The stock market surged to its biggest gain since early September Friday after another strong month of hiring by U.S. employers.

The solid news on the economy opened the way for the Federal Reserve to begin raising interest rates back toward normal levels later this month. Energy stocks and the price of crude oil fell after OPEC said it won’t cut production.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 369.96 points, or 2.1 percent, to 17,847.63. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index had its best day since Sept. 8, rising 42.07 points, or 2.1 percent, to 2,091.69. The Nasdaq composite increased 104.74 points, or 2.1 percent, to 5,142.27 points.

Stocks started the day higher after the Labor Department said employers added 211,000 jobs in November. That was more than investors expected, and a sign that consumers are still spending and keeping the economy afloat even as manufacturing and energy companies are struggling.

The rally gained more power after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the ECB is ready to expand its stimulus program if necessary.

Luke Bartholomew, investment manager Aberdeen Capital Management, said it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Fed will raise interest rates. The question, he said, is “what the path looks like next year.”

Consumer discretionary stocks were the best performers in the S&P 500. Discount retailer Dollar Tree, toy maker Mattel and homebuilder D.R. Horton climbed, and Apple rose $3.83, or 3.3 percent, to $119.03, a large move for the world’s most valuable company.

Avon Products rose as multiple media reports said the beauty products company is considering selling its North American business to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. Avon jumped 23 cents, or 5.8 percent, to $4.22.

Energy stocks, however, took a beating, and almost all of the largest losses in the S&P 500 went to energy companies. Oil cartel OPEC said it won’t cut oil production even though global stockpiles keep growing. The price of oil is trading near six-year lows.

The price of U.S. crude fell $1.11, or 2.7 percent, to $39.97 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, slid 84 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $43.

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