Banking stocks extended their rally to a fourth day Friday, and the broader market measures also shrugged off another round of dismal employment figures to finish on the upside.
The KBW Bank Index closed up 3.67% after faltering in morning trading on the news that U.S. employers trimmed another 663,000 jobs in March. The job losses raised the U.S. unemployment rate to 8.5%, its highest since 1983.
The bad news did not permanently faze investors in financial stocks, however.
"Financials have had a great run the past couple weeks, in particular the last few days," said Frank Barkocy, the director of research at Mendon Capital Advisors Corp.
Banking stocks got momentum from positive news earlier last week, including Thursday's decision by the accounting standards board to ease rules that guide how banks must value assets.
"I think that there are some legs left in the rally," Barkocy said.
The weak job figures were also tempered, he said, by a favorable reaction to President Obama's speech in France on Friday in which he promised a "renewed partnership" with Europe.
Peter Cardillo, the chief market economist at Avalon Partners, said the unemployment report of a 15th-straight month of job losses was expected.
The overall market seemed to have absorbed the blow, he said, possibly due to a sense that the job market should stabilize, if not rebound, this month.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.50%, at 8,017.59, after having surpassed the 8,000 mark briefly on Thursday for the first time since early February. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.97%.
Cardillo said he would not be surprised to see banking stocks lose some of their value ahead of earnings reports later this month, as investors sell down positions to take advantage of the recent gains. But overall he remained bullish on the sector.
"I think we have made a major bottom in the market," Cardillo said. "This long nasty bear market, I think, is coming to a close."
JPMorgan Chase & Co. gained 3.98%, Bank of America Corp. 4.97%, Wells Fargo & Co. 6.59%, U.S. Bancorp 2.5%, Bank of New York Mellon Corp. 2.08%, State Street Corp. 4.8% and Citigroup Inc. up 11 cents, to $2.85.
Among the regional banking companies, PNC Financial Services Group Inc. rose 11.04%, SunTrust Banks Inc. 7.8%, Marshall & Ilsley Corp. 3.47%, City National Corp. 2.26%, Bank of Hawaii Corp. 3.38% and Zions Bancorp. 0.72%.