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US Stocks Post Slim Gain En Route To Best Week Since March '09

--U.S. stocks off session highs, tracking reversal in euro, but set for biggest weekly gain since March 2009 --U.S. nonfarm payrolls rise by 120,000, unemployment rate at lowest level since March 2009 --Zumiez surges, Research in Motion declines By Brendan Conway Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- U.S. stocks looked to finish a strong week with a small gain after the U.S. unemployment rate unexpectedly dropped and European leaders and central bankers redoubled efforts to tackle the sovereign-debt crisis. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 12 points, or 0.1%, to 12032, in Friday afternoon trading, though the measure was well beneath highs for the day. Stocks tracked a reversal in the euro late in the morning that traders said reflected jitters over Europe's debt situation and investors pocketing gains after a blockbuster week. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock-index gained three points, or 0.3%, to 1248, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 7 points, or 0.3%, to 2633. Financials were off morning highs but still the strongest performers. J.P. Morgan Chase led the Dow with a 7.3% gain, followed by Bank of America, which added 3.6%. Among other financial gainers, Citigroup added 5.8% while Morgan Stanley tacked on 8.3% and Goldman Sachs Group climbed 5.1%. Utilities, viewed as one of the more defensive sectors, posted a decline. "I think it's natural to have a bit of hesitation here," said Brian Lazorishak, portfolio manager and quantitative analyst at Chase Investment Counsel. "Who knows exactly what another weekend could bring out of Europe. We seem to be trading on every little bit of news." The major indexes are looking to close the week with their strongest gains in more than two years. As of late morning, the Dow was up 7.6% on the week, the S&P 500 had gained 8.2%, and the Nasdaq had risen 8.3%. Each measure was on track for the biggest weekly gain in percentage terms since March 2009. The latest gains came after German Chancellor Angela Merkel called a proposal to create national funds to administer excessive debt in euro-zone nations an "interesting idea," according to her spokesman. Ms. Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy also are finalizing a plan to strengthen euro-zone stability rules, including implementing European Union treaty changes. Meanwhile, European officials are considering a proposal to channel as much as $270 billion in loans from the ECB through the International Monetary Fund to fight the debt crisis, according to Bloomberg News. Friday's gains followed a rise in U.S. nonfarm payrolls by 120,000 last month, while the unemployment rate, obtained by a separate survey of U.S. households, fell to 8.6% in November from 9.0% the previous month, well outstripping forecasts. The rate is now lower than at any point since March 2009, when it was 8.6%. In addition, October's nonfarm-payroll figure was revised upward to a 100,000 gain from the previously reported 80,000 and September's number rose to 210,000 from 158,000. "The economy is improving slightly. Certainly take away that recession risk. Worst case scenario, probably, there could be a mild recession," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. Crude-oil prices edged 0.4% higher to $100.56 a barrel. The dollar picked up steam to rise versus the euro while edging up against the yen. Treasury prices gained, pushing the yield on the 10-year note down to 2.051%. H&R Block fell 6.6% after the tax preparer's fiscal second-quarter loss widened amid a jump in overhead costs. Zumiez surged 24% after fiscal third-quarter earnings rose 15% as the teen-apparel retailer's same-store sales continued to climb. Research In Motion tumbled 8.9% after the BlackBerry maker said it would take a $485 million charge in its fiscal third quarter after marking down the value of its large inventory of PlayBook tablets. The company also revised its revenue and earnings projections downward and warned of a continued decline in BlackBerry shipments. Online-games developer Zynga set the terms of its planned initial public offering, seeking as much as $1 billion by selling 100 million shares at a price between $8.50 and $10. At the high end of its range, Zynga commands a valuation of nearly $7 billion, according to an updated prospectus filed Friday. Western Digital rose 8.7%. The company raised its fiscal second-quarter revenue outlook as it resumed hard-drive production in Thailand after that country's flooding, while Rival Seagate Technology, previously expected to gain market share at Western Digital's expense, lost 4%. Alexander & Baldwin leapt 17% after saying it would split into two publicly traded companies, one focused on ocean transportation and logistics and another on Hawaii real estate and agriculture. -By Brendan Conway, Dow Jones Newswires; (212) 416-2670;

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