NEW YORK (AP) -- Good news was finally good news for the stock market on Friday.
Stocks jumped in early trading after the Labor Department said U.S. employers added 203,000 jobs last month, greater than the 180,000 economists had forecast. It was the fourth straight month of solid gains in the job market and the latest encouraging sign for the economy.
The market rose for the first time in six days. The Standard & Poor's 500 index had been sliding this week after a series of positive economic reports prompted investors to speculate that the Federal Reserve would soon pull back on its economic stimulus, which has been supporting financial markets.
Now that the U.S. job market is finally showing signs of strength, investors appear to be letting go of their worries that the economy wasn't ready for the Fed to start weaning the U.S. off its stimulus. The Fed has been buying $85 billion in bonds every month to keep long-term interest rates low.
"Now we're getting investors trading more on fundamentals and long-term earnings for next year," said Mike Serio, regional Chief Investment Officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank. "There may be some backbone to the economy."
Five minutes before the start of trading, traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange observed a moment of silence to honor former South African President Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 15 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,800 in early trading. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 134 points, or 0.8 percent, to 15,963. The Nasdaq composite climbed 29, or 0.7 percent, to 4,062.
All 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index rose. The gains were led by banks and other financial companies, which stand to benefit as the economy improves and interest rates rise. Industrial stocks also rose broadly after the government reported that manufacturers added 27,000 jobs, the most since March 2012.
The gains ended a mini-slump for the stock market, which got off to a sluggish start in December. The S&P 500 has surged 26 percent the year, putting it on track for its best year in a decade.
In U.S. government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.85 percent from 2.87 percent on Friday.
The price of crude oil edged up 21 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $97.59 a barrel. Gold was flat at $1,232 an ounce.
Among stocks making big moves, Sears gained $1.70, or 2.5 percent, to $51.18 after the company said it will spin off its Lands' End clothing business by distributing stock to shareholders.