Most stocks up despite report on jobs lost

NEW YORK - Wall Street showed some reassuring signs of stability Friday, closing mostly higher despite the biggest monthly decline in jobs in five years. The major indexes ended the first four sessions of the second quarter with a healthy advance.

While some nervous investors fled to government bonds, the report, showing the economy gave up 80,000 jobs last month, appeared to simply confirm many investors' assumptions of a widespread economic slowdown.

Although the job losses, the most since March 2003, are indeed a significant sign of economic weakness, a lackluster report was widely expected, and some investors were relieved the total was not higher. Thomson/IFR had projected 15,000 jobs were lost in March, but some economists expected 150,000 cuts.

Payrolls for January and February were revised lower by a total of 67,000 and the unemployment rate shot up to 5.1 percent, the highest since September 2005. The economy has given up about 232,000 jobs in the first three months of this year, and the latest report adds fuel to the belief of many economists that the U.S. is already in recession.

""The economic data is negative, but I think what the market's telling us is we've priced in a lot of the bad news already,' said Arthur Hogan, chief market strategist at Jefferies & Co. ""You could make the argument that we've thrown a lot of difficult news at this market and it's reacted very well.'