Shares rise ahead of U.S. jobs data; oil falls

Thu Apr 2, 2015 4:42pm EDT
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By Sam Forgione

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks climbed on Thursday after two sessions of losses, as a fall in jobless claims raised optimism ahead of a key payrolls report, while oil tumbled on fears of worsening oversupply if sanctions over Iran's nuclear program are dropped.

Data showing an unexpected fall in the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits boosted sentiment before the U.S. Labor Department's nonfarm payrolls report for March, which will be released on the Good Friday holiday.

U.S. and European stock markets will be closed on Friday. Economists polled by Reuters expect a gain of 245,000 jobs, down from 295,000 in February. Weak payrolls would not necessarily spook Wall Street since a below-consensus jobs number could ease concerns over a nearer-term Federal Reserve interest rate rise.

The benchmark U.S. S&P 500 index .SPX notched a modest weekly gain after declining 2.2 percent last week.

"The jobless claims numbers continue to point to improved labor markets and good prospects ahead, but soft data for the first quarter should keep the Fed on hold," said Michael Jones, chief investment officer at RiverFront Investment Group in Richmond, Virginia. "It's a goldilocks for the market."

Oil prices fell as much as 5 percent as Iran and world powers reached a preliminary pact on Tehran's nuclear program, but pared losses after officials said talks for a final agreement will continue through June. Tehran is hoping for a deal that will end crippling economic sanctions and allow it to sell millions of barrels of oil.

A measure of equity indexes worldwide rose, boosted by gains in U.S., emerging markets and Japanese shares. European shares slipped after Greece's lenders said the country needed to do more to unlock financial aid.

MSCI's all-country world index .MIWD00000PUS was last up 0.71 percent at 427.57. The FTSEurofirst index .FTEU3 of 300 leading European companies closed down 0.20 percent at 1,586.76.   Continued...

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange April 2, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid