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Good news on the employment front took center stage this morning as the unemployment rate fell to 8.3% and the economy added 243,000 jobs in January. In particular, professional services saw job gains of 70,000, while manufacturing saw a 50,000-job boost. Just before 11 a.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) soared 142 points to 12,847, while the S&P 500 rose 17 points to 1,342.
As you'd expect on a day with such a strong move, most stocks were higher. The good news for manufacturing helped send Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) shares higher by more than 2%, as indications of strength in the U.S. economy can only help the global macroeconomic picture on which the construction and mining equipment maker increasingly relies.
But the leader of the Dow was Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) , skyrocketing almost 5%. On top of the positive economic news, Barron's reported that for the first time in more than six months, insiders at the bank bought shares of B of A stock in the past week. The report also cited a similar insider buying pattern at General Electric (NYSE: GE ) , which gained just less than 2%. Renewed insider interest could support a longer-term bull run for the two stocks.
The sole laggard in the Dow was Merck (NYSE: MRK ) , dropping fractionally as an analyst downgraded the stock. The move added to losses yesterday following the company's fourth-quarter earnings report, which included slowing revenue growth and a forecast for flat sales in the coming year.
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