Dow sets fresh high on solid jobs data

The Dow Jones Industrial Average set a fresh record for the fourth straight session Friday helped by solid jobs data that was nonetheless seen unlikely to move the Fed to tighten monetary policy.

The Labor Department reported that the economy generated a net 236,000 new jobs in February, far more than expected, pulling the unemployment rate down to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent.

That pushed the Dow over the 14,400 line for the first time, but a sell-off in the last 15 minutes of the session left the index shy of that level, up 67.58 points (0.47 percent) at 14,397.07.

The broader S&P 500 came close to surpassing its record high, set in October 2007, gaining 6.92 (0.45 percent) at 1,551.18.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite added 12.28 points (0.38 percent) at 3,244.37.

Strong jobs data could have taken the wind out of stocks due to expectations that the Federal Reserve could begin leaning toward a tighter stance on monetary policy.

But analysts said more labor market dropouts, still-high long-term joblessness, and the still-unfelt impact of the sequester spending cuts would keep the Fed in stimulus mode -- which the markets like.

"We expect that fiscal drag now coming on line should soften the trend in payroll employment over the next few months," said Macroeconomic Advisors.

Citigroup surged 3.7 percent after it easily passed the Federal Reserve's annual stress tests -- flunked in 2012 -- and immediately announced a huge stock buyback.

Although they also passed the tests, Goldman Sachs lost 2.3 percent, JPMorgan Chase 0.9 percent and Bank of America 1.6 percent as their test results for capital strength were weaker than expected.

Insurer Metlife added 4.9 percent after it announced it was moving 2,600 jobs to lower-cost venues in North Carolina from more expensive states.

Tax preparer H&R Block gained 9.2 percent after an upgrade from Oppenheimer; the company said the politics-forced delay to the tax advisory and filing season contributed to it turning in a loss in its fiscal third-quarter.

Online music streamer Pandora Media jumped 17.6 percent after the chief executive resigned following a report of widening losses, even as income grew.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.06 percent from 1.99 percent late Thursday, while the yield on the 30-year jumped to 3.25 percent from 3.20 percent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.