US STOCKS-Jobs lift Dow to record, S&P up for 9th week out of 10

Fri Mar 8, 2013 3:09pm EST

* Dow hits fresh highs, S&P 2 pct away from record intraday high

* U.S. non-farm payrolls jump more than expected in February

* Financials weigh after stress tests, Goldman Sachs tumbles

* Dow up 0.4 pct, S&P up 0.4 pct, Nasdaq up 0.4 pct

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, March 8 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks extended their advance on Friday, with the Dow hitting yet another record and the S&P climbing for its sixth straight day after a payroll report that was much stronger than expected.

All three major U.S. stock indexes were on track for their biggest weekly gain since the first week of the year - with the S&P 500 is on track for its ninth positive week out of the past 10. The benchmark S&P index has jumped 10.5 percent over that period and is about 2 percent from an all-time intraday high.

Hiring in the United States jumped in February with non-farm payrolls adding 236,000 last month, easily beating expectations for a gain of 160,000 jobs. The unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008.

"This was a lot higher than anyone was expecting, and it definitely shines light on the fact that the economy is improving," said Owen Fitzpatrick, head of U.S. equities at Deutsche Bank Asset and Wealth Management in New York.

"While in the near term, we may be overdue for a pause, given how much we've run, it is very constructive to see numbers improve like this," Fitzpatrick said.

The day's gains were offset by a decline in some bank shares in the wake of the Federal Reserve's "stress test" results. While the results were largely positive and as expected, with the Fed saying the biggest U.S. banks had enough capital to withstand a severe economic downturn, investors took the opportunity to book profits in the group.

Bank of America Corp fell 1.4 percent to $12.09.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc dropped 2.3 percent to $153.09 and ranked as the S&P 500's biggest percentage decliner. While Goldman met the minimum Tier 1 common capital ratio that the Fed tested for, it had one of the lowest outcomes above the threshold.

Citigroup Inc had the highest Tier 1 common capital ratio, according to the Fed's "stress test" results; its stock jumped 3.1 percent to $46.41.

"Financials have had a good run, so people are selling on the news, except for Citi, which was a real outlier on the positive side," Fitzpatrick said.

The S&P financial sector index, which had climbed more than 10 percent this year, was up just 0.3 percent in late afternoon trading. The index, however, hit a 52-week intraday high earlier in the day.

Still, investors were mindful of the possibility of a bigger pullback after the steady gains this year. The last correction for the benchmark S&P 500 index was nearly a year ago - a 9.9 percent slide from April highs to the start of June.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 50.76 points, or 0.35 percent, at 14,380.25. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 5.84 points, or 0.38 percent, at 1,550.10. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 11.91 points, or 0.37 percent, at 3,244.00.

Earlier in the session, the Dow climbed as high as 14,413.17 - a fresh intraday record.

Wholesale inventories added to the stream of positive economic data. In January, U.S. wholesale inventories increased 1.2 percent to $504.4 billion - the fastest pace of growth since December 2011. The strong January reading followed a revised 0.1 percent rise in December 2012.

McDonald's Corp gained 1.6 percent to $98.60 and gave the biggest boost to the Dow after the fast-food hamburger chain said February sales at established restaurants fell just 1.5 percent, a little better than expected.

Pandora Media shares jumped 19 percent to $13.96 on stronger-than-expected quarterly results. The company, the leader in Internet-streaming radio, also made the surprising announcement that CEO Joseph Kennedy is stepping down.

Skullcandy Inc plunged nearly 23 percent to $5.20 after the headphone maker said it expects to post a loss in the current quarter, even though fourth-quarter revenue was higher than expected.

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