(By Balachander) U.S. stocks closed on a positive note, buoyed by stronger-than-expected jobs data for the month of February.
The S&P 500 Index rose 0.45 percent to end at 1,551.18. The Dow Jones gained 0.47 percent to finish at 14,399.92. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.38 percent to close at 3,244.37.
The Labor Department's non-farm payrolls report showed that the economy added 236,000 jobs in February following a revised 119,000 in January. Economists expected creation of 160,000 jobs last month. Non-farm payrolls measures the change in the number of people employed during the previous month, excluding the farming industry.
The jobless rate fell to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent, the lowest level since December 2008, while economists expected a reading of 7.8 percent.
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Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) rose 3.73 percent after the Federal Reserve released results from its stress tests. The banking giant has requested a $1.2 billion share buyback through the first quarter of next year.
McDonald's Corp. (NYSE: MCD) gained 1.67 percent after the restaurant operator posted monthly sales results that came in better than Wall Street expectations.
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Foot Locker Inc. (NYSE: FL) retreated 7.14 percent after the retailer of athletic footwear and apparel posted fourth-quarter earnings that matched Wall Street projections and issued 2013 guidance.
Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV) rallied 11.13 percent after JPMorgan upgraded the stock to "Overweight" from "Neutral".
Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE: HLF) rose 1.22 percent after a regulatory filing showed activist investor Carl Icahn lifted his stake in the nutritional supplements company to 15.5 percent from 13.6 percent.
Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE: P) spiked 17.56 percent after the Internet radio services company posted better-than-expected results for the fourth quarter.
Ann Inc. (NYSE: ANN) surged 7.83 percent after the retailer of women apparel issued an upbeat sales forecast.
Finisar Corp. (NASDAQ: FNSR) dropped 8.33 percent after the provider of fiber optic subsystems reported a loss for the third quarter.
Skullcandy Inc. (NASDAQ: SKUL) plunged 22.47 percent after the maker of headphones forecast a loss for the first quarter.
Sequenom Inc. (NASDAQ: SQNM) lost 4.01 percent after the maker of DNA detection and sequencing equipment reported a fourth-quarter loss amid drop in margins and higher expenses.
European markets closed in green, with Germany's DAX up 0.59 percent to close at 7,986.47. France's CAC40 added 1.22 percent to finish at 3,840.15. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 rose 0.69 percent to end at 6,483.58.
Asian markets ended mixed. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.24 percent to end at $2,318.61. Japan's Nikkei 225 jumped 2.64 percent to end at 12,283.62. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 1.41 percent to close at 23,091.95. India's BSE Sensex closed at 19,683.23, up 1.39 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Crude oil futures rose 0.26 percent to $91.80 per barrel, and natural gas futures jumped 1.42 percent to $3.63 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures inched 0.13 percent higher to $1,577.10 per ounce and silver futures rose 0.51 percent to $28.96 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro fell 0.82 percent against the U.S. dollar at 1.2999. The British pound lost 0.62 percent against the greenback to 1.4921, while the dollar gained 1.31 percent against the Japanese yen at 96.0600.