U.S. stocks surged Friday, finishing just short of record highs, as investors responded enthusiastically to a strong June job market report.
The buying accelerated throughout the day after the Labor Department said U.S. employers added 287,000 jobs last month. That was far more than analysts expected, and after weak reports from April and May, it suggests the economy and job market haven’t run out of steam.
“It was a strong report and it put to bed worries that we were seeing the job market sputter,” said Kate Warne, investment strategist for Edward Jones.
Mining and materials companies, which would stand to benefit more than other industries from an accelerating economy, took the biggest gains. Machinery makers also jumped. Only eight stocks on the Standard & Poor’s 500 finished lower.
The Dow Jones industrial average surged 250.86 points, or 1.4 percent, to 18,146.74. The S&P 500 rose 32 points, or 1.5 percent, to 2,129.90. The Nasdaq composite advanced 79.95 points, or 1.6 percent, to 4,956.76.
The government said the unemployment rate rose slightly as more people looked for jobs. There was also evidence wages were rising faster. The April and May reports worried investors, in part because they came after the economy grew just 1.1 percent over the first three months of 2016. The U.S. economy has been growing for more than six years and investors are wary that that streak could end.
The S&P 500 is less than a point away from the record high it set in May 2015. The Dow, too, is close to a record. They reached those peaks before investors got very worried about the slowdown in China’s economy, before the Federal Reserve started raising interest rates for the first time in almost nine years, and before anyone thought Britain might really vote to leave the European Union.
While all of those concerns have hurt stocks, they have recovered. But it’s been a very careful, uneasy rally. The stocks that have done the best in the last year are phone companies and utilities, which pay big dividends and are considered safe. U.S. bond yields have set all-time lows in the last few days. Gold is at its highest price in two years.
U.S. economic growth has been steady but uninspiring and corporate profits and revenues are in a slump. But the alternatives don’t look any better. China has been shaky. The economies of Japan and Europe are weak, and the yields on some European bonds are negative as nations try to boost their economic growth. That means investors have to pay to own those bonds. So even if U.S. stocks aren’t setting the world alight, they’ve been good enough.
“I don’t think investors are nearly as excited as they would typically be in an environment where stocks are close to record highs,” said Warne.