After declining for most of the day on continued worries of contagion from Greece's sovereign debt and a disappointing nonfarm payrolls report, U.S. stocks staged a comeback around 2:00 pm to close higher, led by commodities firms.
Early in the afternoon session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had fallen more than 100 points below the psychologically important 10,000 mark and oil was hovering around $70. It had already dipped to $69.50 earlier today.
Oil, however, found significant support at $70. It did not drop below its morning low in afternoon trading and began to rally about 10 minutes before the stock market did.
The S&P 500 then rallied from a low of 1,045 at 2:00 PM and gained 3.07 points, or 0.29 percent, to end at 1,066.18. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 10.05 points, or 0.10 percent, to close at 10,012.23. The tech heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 15.59 points, or 0.74 percent, to finish at 2,141.12.
The Dow Jones U.S. Basic Materials Index gained 1.73 percent, the Dow Jones U.S. Technology Index gained 1.15 percent, and Dow Jones U.S. Financial Services Index gained 1.09 percent.
Commodities stocks, after leading the decline earlier in the session, were some of the biggest gainers today. BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP), the metals and petroleum giant, gained 1.15 percent today. Vale (NYSE:VALE) gained 2.14 percent and Alcoa (NYSE:AA) gained 2.09 percent.
Wall Street firms also gained. Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) gained 2.31 percent, Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) 2.37 percent, and Citigroup (NYSE:C) closed up 1.26 percent.
Firms in home construction struggled today. D.R. Horton (NYSE:DHI) dropped 7.19 percent, Lennar (NYSE:LEN) dropped 6.71 percent, and KB Home (NYSE:KBH) dropped 4.50 percent.
European sovereign debt continued to be a concern today. The spread on the credit default swaps of the sovereign debt of Greece, Spain, and Portugal rose to new heights. Russia's spreads also widened.
European banks traded on the New York Stock Exchange ended the day mixed and generally fared worse than their U.S. counterparts. The National Bank of Greece (NYSE:NBG) closed down 2.96 percent.
Before the stock market opened, a somewhat controversial U.S. unemployment report was released, which may have cushioned stock prices in the morning.
The unemployment rate dropped to 9.7 percent in January, better than what economists expected. Nonfarm payrolls decreased by 20,000, which was below expectations. Construction firms shed 75,000 jobs.
The New York Times called it a statistical quirk because the unemployment rate is calculated according to a random survey of American households. The publication suggested that investors should trust the payrolls number more.
FOX Business attributed the discrepancy to a decline in the number of people actively looking for a job. The U.S. government defines unemployed as people who do not have jobs, are available to work, and have actively looked for work in the prior four weeks.
The publication points out that discouraged job seekers increased to 1.1 million in January, compared to 734,000 a year ago.
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