U.S. stocks gain as data show employment growth in December

Most U.S. stocks rose, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index poised for its biggest weekly rally in 13 months, after data showed employers added workers in December at about the same pace as the prior month.

Eli Lilly & Co. jumped 3.8 percent as it forecast 2013 earnings above analyst expectations. Citigroup Inc. advanced 1.4 percent after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. added the bank to its conviction buy list. Avon Products Inc. gained 3 percent after Bank of America Corp. raised its rating on the stock. Apple Inc., the world’s most valuable company, slumped 2.8 percent for the biggest decline in the S&P 500 as technology shares tumbled.

The S&P 500 added 0.3 percent to 1,462.99 at 11:40 a.m. in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 16.80 points, or 0.1 percent, to 13,408.16 today. More than two stocks rose for each that fell on U.S. exchanges. Trading in S&P 500 companies was in line with the 30-day average at this time of day.

“It’s not an incredibly strongly labor market but it’s mending and it’s going to continue to take time,” Greg Woodard, a strategist at Manning & Napier in Fairport, New York, which manages about $40 billion, said by telephone. “The market realized there’s some outside help. The Fed continues to provide a lot of liquidity. We got some resolution on a lot of uncertainty, although we pushed that uncertainty two months down the road.”

Payrolls rose by 155,000 workers last month following a revised 161,000 advance in November that was more than initially estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median estimate of 82 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a increase of 152,000. The unemployment rate held at 7.8 percent, matching the lowest since December 2008.

Services Index

A separate release from the Institute for Supply Management showed its index of U.S. non-manufacturing businesses rose to 56.1 in December from 54.7 a month earlier. The median forecast of 66 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected a decline to 54.1.

The S&P 500 has risen 4.2 percent this week, its largest advance since December 2011, and yesterday climbed within one point of its highest closing level in five years before retreating. The gauge soared 2.5 percent on Jan. 2 after Republicans and Democrats agreed on a compromise budget that avoided the so-called fiscal cliff of sweeping tax increases and spending cuts.

The equity benchmark surged 13 percent in 2012, its biggest annual rally in three years, as the Federal Reserve expanded asset purchases and the European Central Bank announced an unlimited bond-buying plan. Stocks slipped yesterday after Fed policy makers said they will probably end their $85 billion monthly bond-purchase program sometime in 2013.

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