Dow closes above 17,000 on strong US jobs data

NEW YORK (AFP) - The Dow finished above 17,000 Friday for the first time in two months following a better-than-expected US jobs report and a gain in oil prices that lifted most petroleum shares.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 62.87 points (0.37 per cent) to 17,006.77, the first close above 17,000 since Jan 5.

The broad-based S&P 500 rose 6.59 (0.33 per cent) to 1,999.99, just a hair below the psychologically-important 2,000 level. The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 9.60 (0.2 per cent) to 4,717.02.

The Labour Department reported that the US added a robust 242,000 jobs in February, although the data also showed a drop in wages.

“The employment report was much better than expected and that led to a continuation of the strength that we’ve seen for most of the last two weeks,” said Michael James, managing director for Wedbush Securities.

But James said market sentiment was constrained by concerns that the Federal Reserve could move more quickly to lift interest rates.

“While two weeks ago you would have been able to rule out a rate hike at the Fed meeting in (mid-March), I think given the data we’ve seen and the market performance, a potential further rate hike of 25 basis points in two weeks hasn’t been completely ruled out,” he said.

Oil prices continued their upward climb, with the US benchmark contact rising nearly four percent to US$35.92 a barrel. Mid-sized oil companies ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil surged 6.6 per cent and 10.3 per cent, respectively.

Hewlett Packard surged 13.5 per cent as it projected 2016 earnings of between US$1.85 and US$1.95 a share, compared with analyst expectations for US$1.87 per share.

Carmike Cinemas vaulted 16.5 per cent following an announcement it will be acquired by Chinese-owned AMC Entertainment for about US$1.1 billion. The deal will create a company with more than 600 theatre locations and more than 8,000 screens across the United States. AMC rose 5.1 per cent.

Luxury bag maker Tumi rose 1.3 per cent on news it will be acquired by Hong Kong-based luggage giant Samsonite for US$1.8 billion.

Mining company Freeport-McMoRan rose 6.9 per cent on news it will sell a stake in a copper and gold project in Serbia to Lundin Mining for US$262.5 million.