Dow kicks off new year with best weekly gain in months

Seth Wenig/AP

NEW YORK U.S. stocks climbed on Friday after a report showed that hiring in December held up, lifting the Dow Jones industrial average to its best week in more than six months.

The Dow gained 44 points to close at 13,435. The index this week rose 3.8 percent, its biggest weekly advance since June. The Standard & Poor's 500 gained seven points to close at 1,466, a five-year high. In 2013, the S&P 500 is up 4.6 percent. The Nasdaq rose just one point to end at 3,101, held back by a decline in Apple (AAPL).

Three stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume on Friday was higher than average at 3.4 billion shares.

Stocks surged this week after lawmakers passed a bill to avoid a combination of government spending cuts and tax increases that have come to be known as the "fiscal cliff." The law passed late Tuesday night averted that outcome, which could have pushed the economy back into recession.

The Labor Department on Friday said U.S. employers added 155,000 jobs in December, showing that hiring held up during the tense fiscal negotiations in Washington. It also said hiring was stronger in November than first thought. The unemployment rate held steady at 7.8 percent.

The jobs report failed to give stocks more of a boost because the number of jobs was exactly in line with analysts' forecasts, said JJ Kinahan, chief derivatives trader for TD Ameritrade.

"The jobs report couldn't have been more in line," Kinahan said. "The market had more to lose than to gain from it."

Among stocks making big moves, Eli Lilly (LLY) jumped $1.84, or 3.7 percent, to $51.56 after saying that its earnings will grow more than Wall Street expects, even though the drugmaker will lose U.S. patent protection for two more product types this year.

Walgreen (WAG), the nation's largest drugstore chain, fell 61 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $37.18 after the company said that a measure of revenue fell more than analysts had expected in December, even as prescription counts continued to recover.

Stocks may also be benefiting as investors adjust their portfolios to favor stocks over bonds, said TD Ameritrade's Kinahan. A multi-year rally in bonds has pushed up prices for the securities and reduced the yield that they offer, in many cases to levels below company dividends.

Goldman Sachs (GS) reaffirmed its view that stocks "can be an attractive source of income," and warned that there is a risk that bonds may fall. In a note to clients, the investment bank said that an index of AAA rated corporate bonds offers a yield of just 1.6 percent, less than the S&P 500's dividend yield of 2.2 percent.

The 10-year Treasury note fell, pushing its yield higher. The yield on the 10-year note fell 2 basis points to 1.91 percent. The note's yield has now climbed 52 basis points since falling to its lowest in at least 20 years in July.

Other notable activity includes the following stock moves.

  • Accuray (ARAY) plunged $1.37, or 20 percent, to $5.41 after the radiation oncology equipment company reported weak sales and said it would cut 13 percent of its staff.
  • Lululemon (LULU), a yoga apparel maker, dropped $3.14, or 4.2 percent, to $71.95 after Credit Suisse predicted slowing momentum and downgraded its stock.
  • Finish Line (FINL), an athletic footwear and clothing company, fell $1.58, or 8.3 percent, to $17.18 after it reported a small loss after sneaker trends changed and customers didn't take to its new web site launched in November. Analysts had forecast a profit.