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The close: S&P 500 hits five-year high Add to ...

North American stocks rose on Friday following the release of an uneventful U.S. payrolls report and a strong report on service-sector activity, sending the U.S. benchmark index to a fresh five-year high.

The S&P 500 closed at 1466.47, up 7.1 points or 0.5 per cent, marking a full recovery from a market dip in the fourth quarter of 2012. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,435.21, up 43.85 points or 0.3 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,540.81, up 70.37 points or 0.6 per cent.

The U.S. Labor Department reported that employers added 155,000 positions in December, in line with expectations but more evidence that the employment seen is merely keeping pace with population growth. The unemployment rate was unchanged, at 7.8 per cent, after November’s rate was revised up from 7.7 per cent.

In Canada, employers added 39,800 jobs in December, with the unemployment rate falling to 7.1 per cent from 7.2 per cent, marking a four-year low.

The U.S. ISM non-manufacturing index rose to 56.1 in December, up from 54.7 in November and ahead of expectations.

Yet, stock markets remain relatively subdued after an impressive two-day rally earlier in the week, when investors reacted to a budget agreement in Washington, which averted the damaging consequences of going over the so-called “fiscal cliff.” However, that agreement failed to incorporate any budget cuts or extension of the debt ceiling – setting up the next couple of months as another round of political tension and uncertainty.

Apple Inc. weighed on the technology sector after the stock fell 2.8 per cent.

Gold fell to $1,648.90 (U.S.) an ounce, down $25.70. Gold has come under stress with indications from the Federal Reserve that its stimulus programs could end sooner than expected. Barrick Gold Corp. rose 0.2 per cent, recovering from an earlier decline.

Crude oil rose to $93.09 a barrel, up 17 cents. Among Canadaian energy stocks, Suncor Energy Inc. rose 0.5 per cent.

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