NEW YORK - A strong jobs report boosted U.S. and European stocks Friday and left the Dow Jones industrial average just short of 18,000.
The main focus in the markets was the hiring numbers. The Labor Department said U.S. employers added 321,000 jobs last month, the biggest burst of hiring in nearly three years, while the unemployment rate remained steady at 5.8 percent.
Despite the good news, stock gains were restrained. Investors now expect that the robust jobs growth - and other signs the economy is accelerating - could lead the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates sooner than expected.
Banks, whose profit margins increase when interest rates rise, were among Friday's biggest gainers. Utility stocks, which tend to perform poorly in an improving economy, were among the biggest decliners, along with energy companies, which were hurt once again by lower oil prices.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 58.69 points, or 0.33 percent, to 17,958.79. The Nasdaq composite gained 11.32 points, or 0.24 percent, to 4,780.76. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 3.45 points, or 0.17 percent, to 2,075.37.
With Friday's modest increases, the S&P 500 index closed out a seventh straight week of gains.
"We continue to see this steady drip into the equities markets, and I don't think it's going to stop any time soon," said David Kelly, chief global strategist for JPMorgan Funds.
November's jobs report, as well as other positive economic data, could raise expectations among investors that the Federal Reserve will soon start raising interest rates.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note climbed to 2.31 percent Friday, from 2.24 percent the day before, as investors sold bonds in anticipation of higher rates.
The price of oil fell to its lowest level since July 2009 on continued expectations of high global supplies and Saudi Arabia's decision to cut its prices.
Benchmark U.S. crude fell 97 cents to close at $65.84 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by U.S. refineries, fell 57 cents to $69.07 in London.