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S&P 500 Caps Fourth Weekly Advance on Jobs Growth Report

U.S. Stocks Advance
Traders work at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

U.S. stocks rose, capping the fourth straight weekly rally for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, after a government report showing stronger-than-forecast payroll growth bolstered optimism in the world’s largest economy.

Financial shares had the biggest gain among 10 groups in the S&P 500 as Greece’s private creditors agreed to a debt swap. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and BB&T Corp. added at least 1.2 percent. Lennar Corp. and D.R. Horton Inc. rallied more than 3 percent, pacing gains in homebuilders, after Credit Suisse Group AG raised its recommendations for the companies. Starbucks Corp. rose 2.9 percent on plans to introduce a new single-cup brewer.

The S&P 500 added 0.4 percent to 1,370.87 at 4 p.m. New York time. The index rose 2.1 percent in four weeks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 14.08 points, or 0.1 percent, to 12,922.02. The Russell 2000 Index of small companies jumped 1.3 percent to 817. About 6.2 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, or 6.4 percent below the three-month average.

“The jobs report was solid, but not spectacular,” said James McDonald, chief investment strategist at Northern Trust Corp. in Chicago. His firm manages $663 billion. “This helps depict the U.S. as the standout Western economy continuing to slowly, but steadily repair. We didn’t see any improvement in the unemployment rate. That tells me the Fed is going to stay accommodative. The path of least resistance for stocks is up.”

Today is the three-year anniversary of the bull market in U.S. stocks that followed the global financial crisis. The S&P 500 has rallied 103 percent from its 12-year low on March 9, 2009, on better-than-estimated economic and corporate data. The index is up 9 percent in 2012.

Jobs Data

Equities rose today amid the best six-month streak of job growth since 2006. The 227,000 increase in payrolls last month topped the median projection of economists in a Bloomberg News survey. The jobless rate held at 8.3 percent. The latest pickup in employment may not be convincing enough for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, who last week said the labor market remains “far from normal,” a sign policy makers continue to see merit in keeping interest rates low for several years.

Investors also watched developments in Europe’s attempts to tame its debt crisis. Greece pushed through the biggest sovereign restructuring in history, opening the way for a second rescue package. An industry group ruled that Greece’s debt restructuring is a “credit event” that will trigger $3 billion in default insurance.

“This is a story of isolating Greece and preventing a massive financial contagion,” said Brad Sorensen, director of market and sector analysis at San Francisco-based Charles Schwab Corp., which has $1.74 trillion in client assets.

Banks Rally

Nine of 10 groups in the S&P 500 gained today, led by financial shares. The KBW Bank Index rallied 1 percent as 23 of its 24 stocks advanced. JPMorgan advanced 1.5 percent, the most in the Dow, to $41.03. BB&T increased 1.2 percent to $29.46.

A measure of homebuilders in S&P indexes rallied 3.3 percent. Lennar increased 3.1 percent to $25.45, while D.R. Horton climbed 6.3 percent to $15.47. The shares were raised to the equivalent of buy at Credit Suisse.

Starbucks rose 2.9 percent to $51.84. The Verismo machine will make espresso-based beverages and brewed coffee. Starbucks will advertise and sell the machine and single-cup pods through a strategic relationship with closely held Krueger GmbH. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. tumbled 16 percent to $52.59.

Sprint Nextel Corp. surged 6.9 percent to $2.78. The request by regulators for Verizon Wireless and cable operators led by Comcast Corp. to provide more data on the companies’ proposed $3.6 billion airwaves deal appears to be “a partial victory” for smaller wireless operators such as Sprint, Stifel Nicolaus & Co. said in a note.

Biggest Takeover

Molycorp Inc. soared 19 percent to $30.89. After losing two-thirds of its value in 10 months as demand for rare-earth metals imploded, it’s now seeking to boost shareholder returns with its biggest takeover.

The owner of the largest rare-earth deposit outside China yesterday agreed to buy Neo Material Technologies Inc. for C$1.3 billion ($1.3 billion) in cash and stock. With Neo Material, Molycorp will gain the ability to produce more types of magnets and increase sales to China, boosting profitability, Byron Capital Markets Ltd. said.

“It actually makes it a stronger story,” Jonathan Hykawy, a Toronto-based analyst at Byron Capital, said in a telephone interview. “Molycorp effectively has the pieces of the puzzle if this acquisition goes through to basically do the entire magnet industry. That’s a big, big, added slice of added cash flow that Molycorp really isn’t paying all that much for.”

HP Slumps

Ten stocks in the Dow retreated today. Hewlett-Packard Co., the world’s biggest personal-computer maker, slumped 1.9 percent to $24.18. The shares had the biggest decline in the 30-stock index, after rallying for two straight days.

Texas Instruments Inc. lost 1 percent to $32.27. The largest maker of analog semiconductors reduced its first-quarter sales and profit forecasts, citing lower demand for products that let wireless devices connect and run applications.

Pall Corp. fell 3.1 percent, the most in the S&P 500, to $59.30. The supplier of filters for drugmakers and refineries was cut to neutral by Wedbush Securities, citing softness in markets including China.

Dynegy Inc. slumped 36 percent, the most in the Russell 2000 Index, to 76 cents. The independent power producer’s transfer of coal-fired power plants from a unit it later put into bankruptcy was fraudulent and harmed creditors, a court-ordered investigation found.

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