U.S. stocks rose on Friday as data showed U.S. employers cut fewer jobs than expected last month, offering relief to investors braced for bad labor market news.

February's non-farm employment numbers showed a loss of 36,000 jobs in the month against expectations in a Reuters survey for a loss of 50,000 jobs. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.7 percent, although the impact of inclement weather on the figures was unclear.

Analysts were concerned the severe winter weather that affected large swaths of the country would cause a larger drop in payrolls.

We had been bracing for bad news, and what we got was much better than expected, which suggests we could potentially rebound further in March and April, said Marc Pado, market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald & Co in San Francisco.

This was the number people were fearing, and that we got through it like this is very positive for the long run.

Diversified manufacturer 3M Co gained 1.4 percent to $82.17 after the jobs data showed the manufacturing sector added 1,000 jobs in February.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 81.10 points, or 0.78 percent, to 10,526.45. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 10.88 points, or 0.97 percent, to 1,133.95. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> gained 25.64 points, or 1.12 percent, to 2,317.96.

The Nasdaq was boosted by Apple Inc , which surged to a all-time high of $218.69 in intraday trading after it said the first iPad computers will be in U.S. stores in early April.

The jobs data also provided a boost to commodities, with crude oil hitting a seven-week high. Energy shares <.GSPE> were the strongest performing sector in the S&P index, up 1.6 percent.

Dow components Chevron Corp and Exxon Mobil Corp rose, with Chevron up 1.5 percent to $74.19 and Exxon up 1.6 percent to $66.44.

Declining shares included Solarfun Power Holdings , which fell 8.8 percent to $6.86 after warned of a steeper fall in average selling prices in its first quarter.

Transatlantic Holdings Inc shares fell 3.7 percent to $51.75 after American International Group Inc said it would sell its 13.8 percent stake in the company. AIG gained 4.4 percent to $27.89.

For the week, major indexes are up more than 2 percent, with the Nasdaq up more than 3 percent, headed for its strongest weekly gain since October.

(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)