Stocks moved higher on Friday, after a disappointing reading on U.S. employment raised concerns about the economy but also stoked the belief that the Federal Reserve could be planning to give the economy a boost with another round of stimulus.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,306.64, up 14.64, or 0.1 per cent. The broader S&P 500 closed at 1437.92, up 5.8 points or 0.4 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,268.01, up 128.28 points or 1.1 per cent.
The moves follow a strong rally on Thursday, which came after the European Central Bank announced a plan to buy unlimited quantities of government bonds from financially distressed euro zone countries. The gains sent the S&P 500 to its highest closing level in four-and-a-half years.
On Friday, the economic news was downbeat – but nonetheless fed into speculation that the U.S. Federal Reserve could be moving toward a stimulus announcement of its own, perhaps as early as next week when it releases its monetary policy statement. The stimulus could take the form of extending its commitment to keep its key rate at exceptionally low levels, perhaps through 2015, or it could involve outright bond-buying using a strategy known as quantitative easing.
The U.S. Labor Department reported that employers added just 96,000 jobs in August, which was well below the 130,000 new jobs that economists had been expecting. While the unemployment rate fell to 8.1 per cent from 8.3 per cent, economists noted that the decrease was due to people giving up on looking for work.
Commodity producers were the big winners during the day. Gold rose to $1,740.50 (U.S.) an ounce, up $34.90, as investors bet that the Fed’s quantitative easing could create inflation down the road and erode the value of the U.S. dollar. Crude oil rose to $96.42 a barrel, up 89 cents.
Among Canadian commodity producers, Barrick Gold Corp. rose 2.6 per cent and Suncor Energy Inc. rose 2.3 per cent.
Garda World Security Corp. jumped 29.8 per cent after it announced a plan to be taken private in a $1.1-billion deal.
Pandora Media Inc. fell 16.7 per cent after the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple Inc. could be working on a rival radio-streaming service. Apple rose 0.6 per cent.
Intel Corp. fell 3.6 per cent after it cuts its third quarter revenue estimate by about $1-billion because of declining demand for its computer chips. It also withdrew its full-year forecasts.