US STOCKS-Wall St gains on job growth; earnings next hurdle

 * Blue-chip Dow hits highest intraday mark since June 2008
 * NYSE Euronext gains on bid from Nasdaq, ICE
 * Weekly composite volume lowest so far this year
 * Dow up 0.46 pct, S&P up 0.50 pct, Nasdaq up 0.31 pct
 * For up-to-the-minute market news see [STXNEWS/US]
 (Updates to close, changes byline)
 By Rodrigo Campos
 NEW YORK, April 1 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks started a
traditionally healthy month on strong footing on Friday after
solid jobs figures, but the S&P 500 may need help to break to
new multi-year highs.
 The S&P hovered near 1,333, a significant level as it
represents double the 12-year low hit in March 2009. It is
close to the 1,344 representing the S&P's 2011 high, its
highest since June 2008.
 "There's a lot of congestion in terms of price action
around these levels and I wouldn't expect the market to break
to new highs in the next weeks," said Paul Zemsky, head of
asset allocation at ING in New York.
 Strong job growth and supportive comments on Fed policy
from influential New York Fed Bank President William Dudley
were supportive, but the market is looking to forthcoming
earnings to kick the rally into a higher gear.
 U.S. employment grew solidly for a second month in March
and the jobless rate hit a two-year low of 8.8 percent. For
details, see [ID:nNOAT00477]
 "Once we get to earnings and get confirmation companies
continue to show strength, I think we'll make new highs on the
S&P. But a couple of weeks of consolidation seems like a good
thing to happen," Zemsky said.
<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
 For a graphic on jobs  http://r.reuters.com/kab88r
 S&P 500 faces resistance http://r.reuters.com/nac88r
 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>
 About 7.4 billion shares traded on the New York Stock
Exchange, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq, below last year's estimated
daily average of 8.47 billion. Composite volume was the
weakest for any week so far this year.
 Dudley said quantitative easing that totaled $600 billion
in bond purchases was expected to run until June, countering
several days of hawkish rhetoric from other Federal Reserve
officials. For details see [ID:nN01172677].
 The payrolls number was "a clear breakout in the trend of
job growth to the upside," said Zemsky. "I think this is the
game changer in terms of giving more confidence the recovery
is going to be durable and survive the end of QE2."
 NYSE Euronext (NYX.N: Quote, Profile, Research) shares rallied after Nasdaq OMX
Group Inc (NDAQ.O: Quote, Profile, Research) and IntercontinentalExchange Inc (ICE.N: Quote, Profile, Research)
unveiled a bid to buy the rival exchanges operator, topping an
earlier offer from Deutsche Boerse AG (DB1Gn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research).
[ID:nL3E7F11TO]
 NYSE's stock surged 12.6 percent to $39.60 while ICE
shares lost 3.1 percent to $119.75 and Nasdaq OMX rose 9.3
percent to $28.23.
 The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: Quote, Profile, Research) hit 12,419.71 --
its highest intraday level going back to June 2008 -- before
closing up 56.99 points, or 0.46 percent, at 12,376.72. The
Standard & Poor's 500 (.SPX: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 6.58 points, or 0.50
percent, to 1,332.41. The Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC: Quote, Profile, Research) gained 8.53
points, or 0.31 percent, to 2,789.60.
 For the week, the Dow gained 1.3 percent, the S&P added
1.4 percent and the Nasdaq rose 1.7 percent.
 April is the best month for the Dow industrials going back
to 1950, with an average gain of 2 percent, according to the
Stock Trader's Almanac.
 In another snapshot of the economy, the U.S. manufacturing
sector grew at a marginally slower pace in March, according to
the Institute for Supply Management. The Commerce Department
said construction spending fell more than expected in
February, dropping to its lowest level since October 1999.
 Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by
a ratio of more than 2 to 1, while on the Nasdaq, slightly
more than five stocks rose for every four that fell.
 (Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Jan Paschal)




US STOCKS-Wall St gains on job growth; earnings next hurdle