NEW YORK – Stocks jumped Friday after the government’s employment report showed fewer jobs were cut in February than expected.

Major stock indexes climbed more than 1 percent, including the Dow Jones industrial average, which rose 122 points to add to strong gains for the week. Treasury prices slid as demand for safe havens eased.

The monthly Labor Department report is seen as the most important measure of the economy’s health. A drop in joblessness is needed for the economy to make a sustained rebound.

The better-than-expected jobs report helped push oil and other commodities higher on expectations that demand for resources would increase as the economy strengthens. That helped energy and material companies like ExxonMobil Corp. and Chevron Corp.

Meanwhile, Apple Inc. shares hit a new high after the company said its iPad tablet computer will hit store shelves April 3.

The market extended its gains in the final hour of trading after the Federal Reserve reported that consumer borrowing rose in January to break a record 11 straight months of drops. The gain came from an increase in auto loans.

The report raised expectations that consumers are starting to increase their spending. On Thursday, many retailers posted stronger sales for January.

A gain in February sales at retailers open at least a year indicates sustained spending by consumers. Comparable-store sales climbed 4.1 percent, according to Retail Metrics Inc. It was the sixth straight gain and the biggest in 27 months.

“The consumer is starting to come out of hibernation and feel better about their situation,” said Ken Perkins, president of Swampscott, Mass.-based Retail Metrics. More than three-fourths of retailers in the Retail Metrics survey beat estimates, he said.

But it was the jobs report that gave the market an early push. The unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent. Economists were expecting it to rise to 9.8 percent.

Friday’s gains followed a jump at the start of the week on a handful of corporate takeover announcements.

The Dow rose 122.06, or 1.2 percent, to 10,566.20, its highest close since Jan. 20. It was the Dow’s best point and percentage gain since Feb. 16.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose for a sixth straight day, rising 15.73, or 1.4 percent, to 1,138.70. The Nasdaq composite index added 34.04, or 1.5 percent, to 2,326.35.

Five stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume rose to 4.2 billion shares from 4 billion Thursday.

For the week, the Dow rose 2.3 percent, its best advance since the week ended Feb. 19. The S&P 500 index jumped 3.1 percent, and the Nasdaq rose 3.9 percent. The indexes erased their losses for 2010 during the week.

The coming week brings the one-year anniversary of the market’s rebound. On March 9, 2009, major stock indexes tumbled to 12-year lows as concern grew about the economy. Citigroup Inc.’s report that it had made money in early 2009 helped jump-start the recovery.

Meanwhile, bond prices fell on signs of the improving economy. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 3.69 percent from 3.61 percent late Thursday.

The prospect of future job growth also encouraged traders. The hiring of temporary workers, which is often seen as a precursor to employers’ adding full-time staff, rose 48,000 last month. Average hourly earnings rose by 3 cents to $22.46.

Energy companies were among the biggest winners on the day as oil rose $1.29 to $81.50 a barrel. Chevron rose $1.22 to $74.30, while ExxonMobil rose $1.07 to $66.47.

Financial stocks also got a boost from the improved employment numbers, which might lead to fewer loan losses. A recovery in the labor market is “the most critical factor” in getting more people to keep up with their debts, said Edward Crotty, chief investment officer at Davidson Investment Advisors.

Bank of America Corp. rose 30 cents to $16.70, while JPMorgan Chase & Co. climbed 89 cents to $42.81.

After announcing the iPad’s launch date, Apple rose $8.24, or 3.9 percent, to $218.95. It rose as high as $219.70 during trading.

The dollar fell against other major currencies, while gold rose.


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