U.S. stocks rose on Friday after employment notched a second straight month of solid gains while the jobless 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 upward by 7,000 jobs and March's unemployment rate fell to 8.8 percent from 8.9 percent in February.

I was quite pleasantly surprised by the number, which certainly shows that the economy is improving and gaining momentum to the upside, said Steven Roge, portfolio manager at RW Roge & Co in Andover Massachusetts.

NYSE Euronext rallied after Nasdaq OMX Group Inc and IntercontinentalExchange Inc unveiled a bid to buy the rival exchanges operator, topping an earlier offer from Deutsche Boerse AG .

NYSE surged 11 percent to $39.07 while ICE shares were down 3.7 percent to $118.91 and Nasdaq OMX rose 1.9 percent to $26.31.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 56.31 points, or 0.46 percent, at 12,376.04. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 8.01 points, or 0.60 percent, at 1,333.84. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 10.45 points, or 0.38 percent, at 2,791.52.

The S&P broke above 1,330 following several unsuccessful attempts in the past month. If the index stays convincingly above that threshold, it may trigger more buying.

The U.S. manufacturing sector grew at a marginally slower pace in March after accelerating at its fastest rate in nearly seven years the previous month, according to the Institute for Supply Management. Stocks were little affected by the data.

Construction spending fell more than expected in February, dropping to its lowest level since October 1999, the Commerce Department said.

The S&P 500 ended the first quarter on Thursday with a gain of 5.4 percent.

(Editing by Kenneth Barry)