March 9, 2018 / 8:15 PM / 13 days ago

US STOCKS-Wall St climbs on bull market's birthday as inflation fears ebb

* Feb payrolls rise by 313,000, hourly earnings up 0.1 percent

* Thawing of N. Korea tensions, trade war fears support rally

* Indexes higher: Dow 1.49 pct, S&P 1.46 pct, Nasdaq 1.49 pct (Updates to late afternoon, adds commentary, changes byline, adds New York dateline)

By Sinéad Carew

NEW YORK, March 9 (Reuters) - To celebrate the bull market’s ninth birthday on Friday, the three major U.S. stock indexes rose more than 1 percent, with the Nasdaq touching a record high, as February’s jobs report assuaged fears of inflation and aggressive interest rate hikes.

A month ago, the market had been spooked by wage growth that fueled inflation fears, leading to a spike in volatility and a stock market correction. That sentiment has reversed over recent weeks with the market gradually nudging higher.

Friday’s rally saw the S&P rise 1.5 percent, on track for its biggest one-day gain since Feb. 23. The bull market, which began on March 9, 2009, and is the second longest on record, is seen as being in its latter stages. Warnings abound about how much longer it will last.

At 2:43 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 371.66 points, or 1.49 percent, to 25,266.87, the S&P 500 gained 39.95 points, or 1.46 percent, to 2,778.92 and the Nasdaq Composite added 110.43 points, or 1.49 percent, to 7,538.37.

Along with the jobs report, stocks were also supported by easing fears of trade wars and signs of a thaw in nuclear tensions with North Korea after U.S. President Donald Trump said he was prepared to meet the country’s leader.

“What we’re all caught up in is whether this grand experiment by the administration works out or not,” said Philip Blancato, Chief Executive of Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Management, in New York. “Today is a clear sign the tax legislation is having a profound impact. It has a lot more to do with it than they’re getting credit for.”

Inflationary fears dissipated on Friday after U.S. Labor Department data showed nonfarm payrolls jumped by 313,000 jobs last month, while average hourly earnings rose only 0.1 percent compared with a 0.3 percent rise in January.

“You got sort of a Goldilocks report with stronger employment coupled with modest wage growth, but not enough that forces the Fed to act more rapidly than they otherwise would,” said Scott Clemons, chief investment strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman in New York.

While the Dow was about 5 percent below January’s record high, it was 8 percent above its February lows. The S&P was 3 percent off its January record highs and almost 10 percent above last month’s lows.

Friday’s gains were broad-based, with only the telecom, utilities and real estate sectors showing declines. Telecoms were the biggest loser of the S&P’s 11 sectors with a 0.6 percent decline.

Among bigger movers, toy makers Hasbro and Mattel were lower after sources told Reuters that retailer Toys ‘R’ Us is preparing for a potential liquidation.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc shares were up 1.5 percent after the Wall Street Journal reported Lloyd Blankfein is preparing to step down as the bank’s chief executive as soon as the end of the year. (Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak in New York, Ankur Banerjee and Parikshit Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Nick Zieminski)

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