By Peter McKay Signs of slowing job losses in the U.S. sparked the best one-day gain in stocks in more than two weeks on Friday as investors bet more aggressively on economic recovery. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) ended 122.06 points higher, up 1.2%, at 10,566.20, its best one-day rise in both point and percentage terms since Feb. 16. Standard & Poor's 500-stock index (SPX) gained 1.4%. Its financial sector rose 2%, getting a boost after an afternoon report showed borrowing by consumers unexpectedly climbed in January. and In the week's most widely anticipated economic release, the Labor Department said nonfarm payrolls fell by 36,000 in February, well below the drop of 90,000 expected by economists polled by MarketWatch. and The unemployment rate held steady at 9.7%, better than the 9.8% rate economists expected. The jobs report comes on the heels of recent readings of manufacturing, service-sector activity, and retail sales that have also shown improvement, reinforcing the view of many traders and analysts that the U.S. economy is staging a gradual comeback. "I think this number will set the tone for the whole month," said Alan Valdes, head of floor operations at the New York Stock Exchange for Kabrick Trading. "I think you'll see volume pick up, and a lot of portfolio managers that have missed out will feel like now is the time to finally get in." Volume on Friday improved compared to the previous two sessions, though it still fell shy of the 2010 daily average around 5 billion shares. Composite turnover in New York Stock Exchange-listed companies hit 4.3 billion shares. "I think we could see some sideways action next week to consolidate some of these gains," said Tom Alexander, president of Alexander Trading. "For the longer-term, though, all signs suggest that the market is on the right track. The demand for stocks as an asset is high, even if the economy still has some problems." The Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF) was up 1.5%, helped by a 3.9% gain in Apple (AAPL) after the electronics maker said its iPad tablet would be available in the U.S. on April 3. It was a second-straight week of gains for the indexes. The Dow average added 2.3% for the week, the S&P 500 gained 3.1%, and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 3.9%. Shares of Monster Worldwide Inc. (MWW) and other staffing and job-search companies gained on Friday's jobs report. Monster jumped 3.8% while Robert Half International (RHI) climbed 4% and Manpower Inc. (MAN) climbed 3.8%. The Dow average was led by gains of more than 3% each in Alcoa, Inc. (AA), Boeing Co. (BA) and American Express Co. (AXP) shares. Commodity prices also benefited from optimism about the economy on Friday, with traders betting on increased demand. Crude futures approached $82 a barrel, and the broad Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index was up 0.6%. News from overseas was more of a mixed bag for investors. The Greek parliament approved a 4.8 billion ($6.52 billion) austerity package, seen as a prelude to any European Union aid for Greece, while thousands of union members protested the measures on the streets outside. Prime Minister George Papandreou is embarking on a five-day tour of foreign capitals to persuade fellow EU leaders to back Greece as it faces one of its worst economic crises in its modern history. and China's government announced a conservative budget for 2010 that reinforces its gradual shift away from stimulus programs adopted during the financial crisis, even as officials said they were still committed to supporting economic growth. Meanwhile, a report from the Nikkei newspaper said the Bank of Japan may take further easing measures, news that sent the Nikkei 225 up in Tokyo and lifted the dollar against the Japanese yen. and The U.S. Dollar Index (DXY), which measures the greenback versus a basket of six overseas denominations, was flat. The cost of one euro rose to $1.3609, up from $1.3591 late Thursday. Treasury prices fell. The benchmark 10-year note was off 22/32 to yield 3.689%.