NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks rose moderately on Friday, the first day of the second quarter, bolstered by the government's stronger-than-expected jobs report.
The closely watched report showed the U.S. economy created 216,000 jobs in March -- easily topping forecasts -- and the unemployment rate dipped to 8.8%.
At the preliminary close, the Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) climbed 56 points, or 0.5%, to 12376; the S&P 500 (SPX) added 6.5 points, or 0.5%, to 1332; and the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) rose 8.5 points, or 0.3%, to 2790.
Friday's gains were broad, with 23 out of the Dow's 30 members ending higher on the day. The Dow now stands near its 52-week high, a sign of how well this market continues to perform despite the problems abroad, investors said.
"These mildly positive economic reports are going to keep the market moving higher, despite high oil prices and ongoing geopolitical issues," said Stephen Carl, head equity trader with Williams Capital.
Friday's jobs numbers are the latest economic data to show that the U.S. economy remains in a slow, but steady, period of economic recovery. While still elevated, the unemployment rate now sits at its lowest level in two years.
"We are doing modestly better than what most had expected, but the economy is far from perfect," said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at Key Private Bank.
Investors were also digesting a new offer for the NYSE (NYX, Fortune 500) from Nasdaq (NDAQ) and IntercontinentalExchange (ICE). Nasdaq and ICE offered $42.50 a share for NYSE Euronext, topping the bid from rival Deutsche Boerse by nearly 19%. Shares of NYSE jumped 13%, Nasdaq shares closed up 9% and ICE shares fell 3%.
On Thursday, U.S. stocks ended the day narrowly mixed, but the first quarter finished with solid gains despite geopolitical turmoil in the Middle East, and the March earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan.
Office Depot (ODP, Fortune 500) shares sank 9% after the office supply retailer disclosed that it will have to restate its 2010 financial results after the IRS denied a claim for $80 million in tax benefits.
Economy: The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index fell slightly to a reading of 61.2 in March, compared with the 61.4 reading that economists had expected.
The Commerce Department's report on construction spending showed a decline of 1.4% in February, worse than the decline of 0.7% economists were looking for.
World markets: Asian markets ended mixed. The Shanghai Composite rose 1.3%, and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 1.2%. But Japan's Nikkei eased 0.5%, after a report showed auto sales in the nation plunged 37% in March.
European posted solid gains. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 1.7%, the DAX in Germany gained 2% and France's CAC 40 climbed by 1.6%.
Oil for May delivery rose $1.40 to $108.12 a barrel.
Gold futures for June delivery slipped $11.20 to $1,428.10 an ounce.
Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury fell, pushing the yield up to 3.48% from 3.45% late Thursday.
|Overnight Avg Rate||Latest||Change||Last Week|
|30 yr fixed||4.20%||4.27%|
|15 yr fixed||3.27%||3.21%|
|30 yr refi||4.18%||4.24%|
|15 yr refi||3.26%||3.20%|
Today's featured rates:
Some Wal-Mart employees falsely told customers Coke was more expensive in New York because of a sugar tax. More
Scotland's independence vote is too close to call but those who want to keep Britain united won this year's campaign funding race by some distance. More
The FBI's new facial recognition system lets local police easily identify you. It will one day spot you from your iris, voice and the way you walk. More
Y Combinator president Sam Altman is teaching a startup class at Stanford with Silicon Valley heavy hitters as guest lecturers. Bonus: All the videos will be available for free online. More
Occupy Wall Street offshoot Strike Debt says it has abolished nearly $4 million in private student loan debt for students who attended Everest College, part of Corinthian Colleges. More