Wall Street boosted by US jobs figures

NYSE trader Image copyright Reuters

US stocks closed higher on Friday as strong jobs figures raised the odds of a rate rise next week.

US employers added 235,000 jobs in February, exceeding forecasts of about 200,000.

Analysts said the buoyant employment figures made an increase in US interest rates almost inevitable.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average 0.2% to 20,902.98 points, while the S&P 500 gained 0.3% to 2,372.60 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.4% at 5,861.72.

The jobs data virtually guarantees higher interest rates "barring an asteroid strike on Washington", said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics.

The futures market for the key Federal fund interest rate puts the likelihood of a rate rise at between 98% and 100%, according to Bloomberg data.

However, stock indexes ended lower for the week, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq breaking a six-week streak of gains.

Jeffrey Kravetz, regional investment director at the Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank, said the markets had already expected jobs growth to be strong in February.

"The reaction is not huge because the market was expecting a good number," he said.

Analysts also pointed to oil prices, which continued their recent slide, as weighing on investor sentiment.

Brent crude dropped 1.7% to $51.31 a barrel, while West Texas fell 1.8% to $48.38 a barrel.