If a far better than expected report on U.S. joblessness wasn't enough to light a fire under the stock market, you have to wonder what - if anything - will provide the spark now that stocks are up about 40 per cent from their lows in March.
The U.S. Labour Department reported on Friday morning that payrolls shrank by 345,000 in May, far fewer than the 520,000 losses that economists had been expecting and the lowest number in eight months (even as the unemployment rate shot up to 9.4 per cent).
It was exactly the sort of number that some economists and investors had been looking for to substantiate a fairly loose idea that the U.S. economy was in the process of bottoming out, a necessary precondition to rebounding later in the year.
Although stocks rose at the start of trading, they remained volatile for most of the day as investors grew concerned about the impact of surging bond yields and concerns about inflation. In the end, stocks ended the day more or less where they began.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 8763.13, up 12.89 points, or 0.2 per cent. The broader S&P 500 closed at 940.09, down 2.37 points, or 0.3 per cent.
Boeing Co. rose 4.1 per cent, Hewlett-Packard Co. rose 3.5 per cent and Alcoa Inc. rose 2.3 per cent. Financials were generally weak, with Citigroup Inc. down 3.1 per cent, JPMorgan Chase & Co. down 2.3 per cent and Wells Fargo & Co. down 1.5 per cent.
In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 10,569.29, up 92.05 points, or 0.9 per cent.
Research In Motion Ltd. was the biggest mover, rising 2.7 per cent. Financials were also generally higher, with Royal Bank of Canada up 1.5 per cent and Manulife Financial Corp. up 1.1 per cent.
Crude oil fell 37 cents (U.S.) to $68.44 a barrel - a disappointing showing given that it began the day above $70. However, energy stocks fared okay, with Suncor Energy Inc. up 2.6 per cent and Canadian Oil Sands Trust up 0.5 per cent.
On the downside, gold producers were generally hit hard after the price of gold plunged to $962.60 an ounce, down nearly $20. Barrick Gold Corp. fell 1.9 per cent and Kinross Gold Corp. fell 5.3 per cent.