On the first Friday of every month, investors focus their attention on the monthly employment situation report from the Labor Department. This morning's installment showed creation of 175,000 new nonfarm jobs in February, better than the roughly 150,000 jobs that economists had expected. Although the unemployment rate moved up to 6.7%, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) nevertheless reacted favorably, climbing 37 points as of 11 a.m. EST. Nike (NYSE: NKE ) led the way higher for the blue-chip index, while financial stocks JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) continued their positive runs with solid gains on the day.
Goldman and JPMorgan both climbed partially in response to legal victories. Goldman's 0.9% gain came after reports that the company won an arbitration decision against two Marvell Technology (NASDAQ: MRVL ) executives, who had alleged that Goldman acted improperly in connection with sales of shares to cover amounts due on a margin loan. The executives had wanted more than $300 mlilion from Goldman, including damages, plus the return of shares they had sold, but the arbitration panel denied their claims.
Meanwhile, JPMorgan won an arguably more important case. Along with Deutsche Bank, UBS, and Depfa Bank, JPMorgan had a conviction reversed in an Italian court. The overturned decision had originally found JPMorgan and its peers guilty of fraudulent conduct in connection with selling derivative securities to the Milanese city government, but an appeals court found that the alleged crimes hadn't actually taken place.
For both JPMorgan and Goldman, these wins might seem small in relation to the billions that they have paid to settle regulatory and legal issues in recent years, but they do prove that the financial companies aren't always losers in legal disputes.
Meanwhile, Nike climbed nearly 2% as excitement builds over the coming World Cup. With its new Magista boot, Nike is trying to get soccer players interested in its offerings, a space in which the company has long fought against archrival Adidas. But with Adidas having beaten Nike to the punch with its own similarly innovative soccer shoe, it's clear that the next three months leading up to the World Cup will be full of competition. Nevertheless, signs of better economic times in the U.S. should bolster key North American sales figures, and that's a big part of why the stock is climbing today.
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