NEW YORK — News of slower hiring last month jolted markets early Friday, driving government bonds up and the dollar down. The stock market, after slumping in early trading, finished the day with a solid gain.
A jump in crude oil helped turn things around, as Chevron, Exxon Mobil and other oil giants charged higher. But the swing was also a result of traders speculating that the weak jobs report will prevent the Federal Reserve from raising its benchmark interest rate anytime soon. The Fed has only two meetings left to make a move this year: one later this month and another in December.
"It looks like October is clearly off the table," said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors. "I think it puts into question December, too."
The government reported that employers added 142,000 workers last month, much lower than the 200,000 anticipated on Wall Street, and hired fewer people in July and August than previously thought. The unemployment rate stayed at 5.1 percent, but only because many Americans have stopped looking for work and are no longer counted as unemployed.
"There's just no positive spin you can put on it," said Russ Koesterich, BlackRock's global chief investment strategist. "Combined with other reports, it really raises questions about the strength of the recovery."
Major indexes fell hard at the opening of trading, with the Dow Jones industrial average losing as much as 258 points, then reversed course and charged higher throughout the afternoon.
The Dow gained 200.36 points, or 1.2 percent, to close at 16,472.37.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index surged 27.54 points, or 1.4 percent, to 1,951.36. The Nasdaq composite rose 80.69 points, or 1.7 percent, to 4,707.78.
Sometimes, bad news looks like good news for investors. It's been a confusing theme ever since the Fed cut its benchmark rate to near zero during the financial crisis in 2008, helping to set off a stock-market rally.
In the upside-down logic of Wall Street, discouraging economic reports have often been treated as encouraging because it meant the Fed would keep lending rates at record lows. Low rates help drive money into stocks, partly by making the returns on bonds, CDs and other income-producing investments seem paltry by comparison.
In Europe, major indexes finished slightly higher. Germany's DAX rose 0.5 percent, France's CAC-40 rose 0.7 percent, and Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.9 percent.
Markets in Asia drifted, with Japan's Nikkei 225 rising less than 0.1 percent. South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.5 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rebounded after a holiday, jumping 3.2 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 1.2 percent to 5,052.00. Markets on mainland China remain closed for holidays until Oct. 8.
Back in the U.S., Nordstrom's stock climbed after announcing that it will pay a special dividend and spend up to $1 billion buying its own shares. The department-store chain gained $3.69, or 5 percent, to $75.12.
U.S. government bond prices jumped, driving the yield on the 10-year down to 1.98 percent, down from 2.04 percent late Thursday. It fell as low as 1.91 percent in morning trading, its lowest level since April. The euro rose to $1.1218.
In the commodity markets, precious metals finished with big gains. Gold jumped $22.90, or 2 percent, to $1,136.60 an ounce, and silver soared 75 cents, or 5 percent, to $15.26 an ounce. Copper rose 2 cents, or 1 percent, to $2.33 a pound.
The price of oil bounced back from two days of losses. U.S. crude gained 80 cents to close at $45.54 a barrel in New York. Brent Crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose 44 cents to close at $48.13 a barrel in London.
In other futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange:
— Wholesale gasoline fell 2.5 cents to close at $1.341 a gallon.
— Heating oil was little changed at $1.520 a gallon.
— Natural gas rose 1.8 cents to close at $2.451 per 1,000 cubic feet.