Stocks were set for a higher open on Friday after a report showed the economy added more jobs than expected in February, which could push indexes into a higher trading range in the weeks ahead.
Employers added 227,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday, and the unemployment rate held at a three-year low of 8.3 percent. Investors were looking for a gain of 210,000 jobs, according to a Reuters poll.
This continues to show that job growth is going at an encouraging pace, said Sean Incremona, an economist at 4Cast in New York. Upward revisions to the previous month and a solid February keep that positive sentiment alive.
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Also lifting stocks was Greece's winning strong acceptance of its bond swap offer to private creditors, averting the immediate risk of an uncontrolled default. The market had run up for two days on hopes of success.
S&P 500 futures rose 2.9 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 were up 34 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 5.75 points.
Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital, had said a better-than-expected payrolls number would set the S&P 500 <.SPX> index to move up into the 1,385-1,400 range next week. The index closed at 1365.91 on Thursday.
It will set the stage for the market over the next few trading sessions to establish a new trading range, Cardillo said.
Exactly three years ago the S&P 500 posted a 12-year closing low at 676.53 during the height of the financial crisis. The index has more than doubled since then, although it stalled last year before resuming a rally in 2012.
China's annual consumer inflation slowed to a 20-month low in February, and factory output and retail sales also cooled, giving policymakers ample room to further loosen monetary policy.
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(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)