Stocks suffered considerable uncertainty throughout most of Friday's session, ultimately closing higher on the day. The lack of direction seen for much of the day came as traders digested weak employment data along with some positive remarks from Fed Chairman Bernanke.
On the economic front, the Labor Department said that non-farm payroll employment fell by 663,000 jobs in March following an unrevised decrease of 651,000 jobs in February. The drop in jobs came roughly in line with economists' expectations of a decrease of 658,000 levels.
With the continued decrease in jobs, the unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent in March from 8.1 percent in the previous month, in line with expectations. The increase lifted the unemployment rate to its highest level since November of 1983.
Meanwhile, Bernanke offered encouraging news, saying that programs enacted by the Federal Reserve to unfreeze the credit markets are working. Bernanke praised the actions of policymakers as having lowered the cost and increased the availability of credit.
In the midst of extraordinarily challenging times for the financial system and economy, Bernanke stated that he is confident that growth will be restored.
The major averages had some difficulty sustaining any significant moves for much of the session but showed a notable move to the upside going into the close. The Dow closed up 39.51 points or 0.5 percent at 8,017.59, the Nasdaq closed up 19.24 points or 1.2 percent at 1,621.87 and the S&P 500 closed up 8.12 points or 1 percent at 842.50.
With the gains, the major averages closed higher for the fourth straight session and the fourth straight week. The Dow rose 3.1 percent for the week, while the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 posted weekly gains of 5 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively.
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