U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Friday as employment notched a second straight month of solid gains while the unemployment rate fell to a two-year low.
Non-farm payrolls rose by 216,000 jobs last month, more than expected and the largest increase since May, the Labor Department said. January and February employment figures were revised to show 7,000 more jobs than previously reported. The unemployment rate fell to 8.8 percent from 8.9 percent in February.
The data is very consistent with the view that the recovery is gaining some momentum, said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer of Hugh Johnson Advisors LLC in Albany, New York. It's hard to argue with the case that we have further to go in this bull market economic recovery cycle.
On the first day of the new quarter, futures added to earlier gains on the jobs data, which shows the U.S. economy continued to gain strength and support a stock market advance despite turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa and the crises in earthquake-ravaged Japan.
Investors will watch to see if the S&P 500 index can convincingly break through 1,330 after several unsuccessful attempts in the past month. Technical momentum may kick in if it does, lifting stocks further.
NYSE surged 10 percent to $38.73, while ICE shares were down 1.7 percent to $121.50 and Nasdaq OMX was off 1.3 percent at $25.50.
S&P 500 futures rose 8.5 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 66 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 15.25 points.
Other data scheduled for Friday includes the Institute for Supply Management report for March manufacturing due at 10 a.m. The release will follow upbeat Chinese factory data that eased concerns about monetary tightening.
The S&P 500 ended the first quarter on Thursday with a gain of 5.4 percent.
The World Trade Organization said late Thursday that Boeing Co
Goldman Sachs Group Inc
U.S. stocks ended the first quarter with the barest of moves on Thursday.
(Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Kenneth Barry)