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Hiring figures keep stocks on a roll

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By The Associated Press
Friday, March 8, 2013, 6:36 p.m.

NEW YORK — A burst of hiring in February pushed stocks higher.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 67.58 points, or 0.5 percent, to 14,397.07. The index surpassed its record close Tuesday and logged a sixth straight increase Friday.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 6.92 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,551.18. The Nasdaq composite advanced 12.28 points, or 0.4 percent, to 3,244.37.

Employers added 236,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent in January, the Labor Department reported. That's far better than the 156,000 job gains and unemployment rate of 7.8 percent that economists surveyed by FactSet expected.

The jobs report strengthens the case of stock market bulls, who say the economy is gaining momentum following a long and tepid recovery after the financial crisis and Great Recession, said JJ Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at TD Ameritrade.

“It gives hope to those that say this rally isn't just about the Fed, it's about the economy recovering,” said Kinahan. “It's giving people confidence that maybe the economy is turning the corner.”

The Dow is up 120 percent since reaching a 12-year low during The Great Recession. The index bottomed out almost exactly four years ago, on March 9, 2009, at 6,547. The S&P 500 has gained 129 percent since hitting its own bottom of 676 on the same date.

McDonald's contributed the most to the Dow's gains, rising $1.62, or 1.7 percent, to $98.71. The fast-food restaurant chain reported that a key sales figure fell 3.3 percent in February, but the decline wasn't as bad as analysts were expecting.

H&R Block had the biggest percentage gain on the S&P 500, advancing $2.30, or 9.2 percent, to $27.28.

Among stocks making big moves;

— Pandora gained $2.06, or 17.6 percent, to $13.79 after the Internet radio company issued a strong profit forecast and said its mobile business was improving. Pandora also said its CEO, Joseph Kennedy, would leave.

— Skullcandy fell $1.51, or 22.5 percent, to $5.21 after the headphone maker projected a big loss and a drop in sales for the quarter.

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