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Employment Gains Push Dow and S&P to Record Highs

Markets in U.S. and Europe rally as unemployment rate drops to 6.1 percent.

A surprisingly strong jobs report propelled the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 to record highs and lifted U.S retail shares and European markets today.

The U.S. Department of Labor said the economy in June added 288,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent from 6.3 percent in May, marks which were better than analysts had expected and helped send U.S. stocks higher in today’s abbreviated pre-holiday session.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group rose 0.9 percent to hit 911.16, locking in a gain of 2.6 percent for the week and reducing the year-to-date decline in the index to 3.1 percent.

Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.5 percent to 17,068.26, its first ever close above 17,000, after hitting an all-time high of 17,074.65 just before the end of trading at 1 p.m. Similarly, the S&P 500 rose 0.6 percent to end the day at 1,985.44. Although missing the 2,000 milestone, it also closed at its highest level ever and established an all-time record of 1,985.65 before pulling back a fraction before the closing bell.

The S&P was up 6.7 percent for the week and is now ahead 7.4 percent for the year. The Dow’s 1.3 percent gain for the week left it ahead 3 percent in 2014.

Among fashion, retail and beauty issues tracked by WWD, gainers outnumbered decliners by an eight-to-one ratio, with the strongest gains coming from American Apparel Inc., up 4.8 percent to 87 cents; The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., 4.4 percent to $11, and Joe’s Jeans Inc., 3.8 percent to $1.09. Lululemon Athletica Inc. and Ascena Retail Group Inc. both gained 2.9 percent to close at $42.60 and $17.56, respectively.

The small group of equities to decline included Sears Holdings Corp., down 1.3 percent to $40.92; J.C. Penney Co. Inc., 1.2 percent to $9.25, and Cache Inc., 0.6 percent to $1.61.

European markets registered strong gains as word of the improved job picture in the U.S. arrived just before markets closed down.

The DAX in Frankfurt rose 1.2 percent to 10,029.43, followed by the CAC 40 in Paris, up 1 percent to 4,489.88. The FTSE MIB in Milan also rose 1 percent, to 21,884.60, while the FTSE 100 in London was up 0.7 percent to 6,865.21.

In addition to the news on U.S. employment, the European Central Bank president Mario Draghi said during his monthly press conference that interest rates in the euro zone region would stay at their current 0.15 percent “for an extended period,” noting that the ECB would be willing to use “unconventional instruments” to address a long-term period of low inflation.

Fashion, luxury and retail stocks all had a largely positive day.

Firms with gains included Next, up 1.2 percent to 66.20 pounds; French Connection, 3.2 percent to 71 pence; Mulberry, 3.1 percent to 7.74 pounds, and Boohoo.com, which gained 4.4 percent to 44 pence.

The few that fell in the day’s trading included Debenhams, down 1.3 percent to 67 pence; Italia Independent, down 2.6 percent to 30.20 euros, and Koovs, down 0.7 percent to 1.40 pounds.

The euro traded for $1.37 against the U.S. dollar while the pound changed hands for $1.71.