Mar 8 - Summary of business headlines: Blue chips closed at a record for the fourth day in a row after stronger-than-anticipated job creation; Financial stocks lag after stress test results; Pandora CEO announces surprise exit; Fitch downgrades Italy. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Blue chips rally for a sixth day in a row, closing at a lifetime high for the fourth consecutive session. The Dow climbed 67 points to a record 14,397, the S&P 500 gained 6 points, the Nasdaq 12 points. For the week, Blue chips surged 2.2 percent, while the Nasdaq jumped 2.4 percent A positive surprise from the labor market. U.S. employers added a much stronger-than-expected 236,000 jobs in February, meanwhile the unemployment rate fell to a four-year low of 7.7 percent. The data provide the strongest clue yet of a strengthening economy. Some economists wonder if that growth will continue, or peter out like it did last year, But Aneta Markowska of Societe Generale sees a sustained pick-up. SOUNDBITE: ANETA MARKOWSKA, CHIEF U.S. ECONOMIST, SOCIETE GENERALE (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I think that this is different for two reasons. First of all, we no longer have the fiscal cliff ahead of us. I think that that threat last year was one of the key reasons why we saw job creation slow down in the summer months. And then secondly, I think housing is no longer a headwind to growth. It is in fact a tailwind in my opinion." Construction alone added 48,000 jobs last month. Optimism about jobs were partly offset by the financial sector. The biggest U.S. banks passed the Federal Reserve's latest stress test, but Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley had the lowest amount of the capital required by the Fed, while Citigroup had the highest. Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan finished lower but Citigroup was up almost 4 percent. In corporate news, a surprise departure for Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy. He is stepping down at a time when the No. 1 music streaming company beat sales forecasts and predicts higher sales for the current quarter. But Pandora is still losing money due to the rising cost of acquiring music. Nevertheless, shares surged, gained 17-1/2 percent, but are still below their $16 debut. Crossing over to Europe, political uncertainty after elections - leading ratings agency Fitch to cut its debt rating on Italy. The lowered view also comes amid growing concerns about about Italy's rising borrowing. The downgrade came after European markets closed higher across the board.