US STOCKS-Wall St rises after jobs report, Apple gains

Wed Mar 7, 2012 9:45am EST

Related Topics

* Apple rises ahead of new iPad unveiling

* Private sector job gains top expectations

* Greek debt swap accepted by 30 major holders

* Indexes up: S&P, Dow both 0.2 pct, Nasdaq 0.4 pct

By Edward Krudy

NEW YORK, March 7 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged higher on Wednesday, a day after Wall Street suffered its worst selloff in three months and as a report showed the private sector added more jobs than expected.

The pace of job creation by U.S. private employers accelerated more than expected in February as the private sector added 216,000 jobs. Improvement in the sector has been a key driver in the recent stocks rally. The closely watched government payrolls report comes Friday.

"This does suggest we are moving it the right direction," said Beth Ann Bovino, senior U.S. economist at Standard & Poor's Ratings Services in New York. "It supports the expectations of another 200,000 plus in Friday's payroll report. The jobs numbers are looking healthier."

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 20.09 points, or 0.16 percent, to 12,779.24. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 2.99 points, or 0.22 percent, to 1,346.35. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 12.78 points, or 0.44 percent, to 2,923.10.

In Tuesday's tumble, the Dow dropped 200 points on renewed concerns about Greece's debt restructuring and the outlook for the global economy after China cut its growth forecast. It was one of the worst performances since equities began a more than 20 percent rise from lows in October.

Helping to reassure markets Wednesday, 30 major holders of Greek government bonds said they will take part in the country's debt swap, increasing chances of a deal going through.

Materials-related and banking stocks, which took the brunt of Tuesday's losses, helped drive gains. Bank of America Corp rose 1 percent to $7.79. United States Steel Corp gained 0.4 percent to $25.35.

Anticipation of Apple Inc's latest iPad also kept investors engaged. The company will unveil what is expected to be a faster and better-equipped tablet computer later Wednesday. The stock rose 1 percent to $535.65.

Apple, the world's most valuable company in terms of market capitalization, will likely drive technology shares after its product launch, especially because of its large weighting in the Nasdaq 100 index.

Intraday swings in Apple are at the most volatile levels since October last year. The stock is up over 30 percent this year.

"The Apple introduction will be very meaningful for the market if they really can show some true innovation in the product. It could give a nice push to technology stocks across the board," said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in New York. "If the introduction is weak and shows no real interest it could lead to some selloff there."

Ciena Corp posted a wider-than-expected quarterly loss, hurt by delayed contracts, but expects results to improve in the second half of 2012, sending the network gearmaker's shares up 7.5 percent to $14.45.

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