NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks jumped Friday, helped by a report that showed employers were still hiring workers at a steady pace. European markets also rose following the results of the election in the United Kingdom, where David Cameron's Conservative Party won an outright majority in Parliament.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 274 points, or 1.5 percent, to 18,198 as of 3:10 p.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 27 points, or 1.3 percent, to 2,115 and the Nasdaq composite rose 54 points, or 1.1 percent, to 5,000.
JOBS, JOBS, JOBS: Investors cheered news that U.S. employers added 223,000 jobs in April, a solid gain that suggests that the economy may be recovering after a stumbling start to the year. The unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent from 5.5 percent in March, the lowest rate since May 2008.
While the jobs report is always closely watched, April's survey garnered even more interest than usual. The revised March figures were abysmal, with employers creating only 85,000 jobs that month.
"I am even more convinced that the March report was an outlier," Paul Christopher, an investment strategist with Wells Fargo Advisors. "We all know the first quarter was a tough quarter. The jobs numbers needed to hold up and they did."
MORE VOLATILITY: The bond market continued its week of heightened volatility. The 10-year Treasury note traded at a yield of 2.14 percent, down from 2.18 percent the day before. Bond traders said the rally was tied to rising expectations that the Federal Reserve will likely keep interest rates at zero for the rest of year. While the U.S. economy continues to improve, it is not improving fast enough to justify higher interest rates, they said.
U.K. ELECTION: The Conservative Party surged to get a majority lead in Britain's parliamentary election, meaning Cameron will remain in power. The clarity of the result eased concerns among investors, who had been worried that an uncertain outcome could lead to political haggling to create a new government. The British pound jumped 2 percent overnight against the dollar to its highest level since February. It held onto the gains Friday, trading at $1.54.
"The U.K. general election result is a surprisingly market-friendly outcome and removes the risk that the economy suffers a prolonged period of political uncertainty," said Vicky Redwood from Capital Economics in London.
In the longer term, however, a Conservative win means the U.K. will hold a referendum within two years about leaving the European Union, a big decision that could unsettle business confidence.
EUROPE: Major indexes in Europe jumped on the results of the election. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 2.3 percent, Germany's DAX rose 2.6 percent and France's CAC 40 gained 2.5 percent. Prices for European government bonds rose broadly, sending yields lower.
ENERGY: The price of benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 45 cents to close at $59.39 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell $1.99, or 3.3 percent, to $58.94 per barrel on Thursday, the biggest drop since April 8. Brent crude fell 15 cents to close at $65.39 a barrel in London.
VISA VERSA: Payment processing company Visa jumped $2.83, or 4 percent, to $69.40 in heavy trading after Bloomberg News reported that Visa is in talks to buy Visa Europe. Visa Europe was split off from Visa Inc. in 2007 when the U.S.-based Visa decided to become a publicly-traded company. Visa Europe is owned by European banks, which is similar to how Visa was structured before it went public.
CURRENCIES: The dollar edged up to 119.78 yen from 119.73 yen. The euro was little changed at $1.1210.
METALS: Gold rose $6.70 to $1,188.90 an ounce, silver rose 17 cents to $16.47 an ounce and copper was little changed at $2.92 a pound.