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US stocks head for a 4th straight gain; energy, metals surge

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Stocks are rising Friday for a fourth day straight after the U.S. government said employers added more jobs than expected in February. Energy and metals prices are gaining ground on the latest sign of strength for the economy, and energy and mining stocks are jumping.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 106 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 17,050 as of 2:05 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 14 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 2,007. The Nasdaq composite rose 35 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 4,742.

The S&P 500 last traded over 2,000 on Jan. 6, the third trading day of the year. The last four-day winning streak for stocks came in early October.

JOBS REPORT: The Labor Department said employers added 242,000 jobs in February as construction, retail and health care companies kept hiring more workers. Consumer demand was solid, and the government also said employers hired more people in December and January than it had previously estimated. More people also looked for work.

THE BIG PICTURE: This week stocks have risen following reports that show the U.S. economy is doing fairly well, including data on construction spending and manufacturing.

Kate Warne, investment strategist for Edward Jones, said she expects continued job and economic growth for the U.S.

“The worries that we’ve been hearing recently about the economy sliding into recession aren’t warranted,” she said. Combined with low inflation rates, she said that’s good news for investors.

METALS: Metals prices kept climbing. Gold, which is trading at its highest price in a year, rose $12.50, or 1 per cent, to $1,270.70 an ounce. Silver jumped 55 cents, or 3.6 per cent, to $15.69 an ounce and copper rose 7 cents, or 3 per cent, to $2.27 a pound.

Copper mining company Freeport-McMoRan gained 80 cents, or 8.7 per cent, to $9.90 and aluminum producer Alcoa rose 20 cents, or 2.1 per cent, to $9.67.

Companies that make mining equipment and other machinery also traded higher on the prospect that higher metals prices will encourage companies to spend more money on their products. Caterpillar rose $2.09, or 2.9 per cent, to $73.84.

OIL: The price of U.S. crude oil rose $1.31, or 3.8 per cent, to $35.88 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, added $1.62, or 4.4 per cent, to $38.69 a barrel in London. While U.S. oil is still down significantly this year, Brent, the international standard, is now higher than it was at the beginning of the year.

U.S. oil prices are also on track to rise for the third week in a row, which hasn’t happened since May.

Energy stocks climbed for the fourth day in a row. Southwestern Energy rose to 84 cents, or 11.4 per cent, to $8.18 and drilling rig operator Transocean gained $2.43, or 22.4 per cent, to $13.26.

BIG SCREEN GETS BIGGER: AMC Theaters, owned by Wanda Group of China, is buying Carmike Cinemas for $1.1 billion. The deal will create the biggest movie theatre chain in the world. Earlier this year, Wanda said it would buy Legendary Entertainment, a studio that co-financed movies including “Jurassic World” and “The Dark Knight.” Carmike climbed $4.14, or 16.5 per cent, to $29.26.

BONDS: Bond prices tumbled and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.90 per cent from 1.84 per cent late Thursday.

HP HIGH POINT: Hewlett Packard Enterprise, an information technology products and service company, reported a stronger profit and greater sales than analysts had expected. Its stock surged $1.93, or 14.2 per cent, to $15.53.

TAXED: H&R Block tumbled after its quarterly profit and revenue disappointed investors. The company said people are filing their taxes later and refunds are taking longer to process as efforts to fight tax fraud increase. The stock dropped $5.83, or 17.7 per cent, to $27.07.

SMITH & WESSON CLIMBS: The handgun maker’s stock rose $1.77, or 7 per cent, to $27.17 after its profit and sales surpassed Wall Street estimates. Smith & Wesson also raised its profit and sales projections for its current fiscal year.

STAPLED: Staples lost 9 cents to $9.79 after the office supply chain’s profit and sales were weaker than expected.

OVERSEAS: Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 1.1 per cent and France’s CAC 40 rose 0.9 per cent. Germany’s DAX was up 0.7 per cent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index closed 0.3 per cent higher and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 1.2 per cent. South Korea’s Kospi edged 0.1 per cent lower.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.0996 from $1.0959 the day before while the dollar rose to 114.21 yen from 113.57 yen.

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AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP

His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/marley-jay