By Donna Kardos Yesalavich
NEW YORK (Dow Jones) -- U.S. stocks opened higher Monday following the government's Friday report of the biggest increase in jobs in three years, although concerns over a closed-door meeting of the Federal Reserve limited the gains.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 2 points to 10929. The measure was led by some of its most economically sensitive components, with Caterpillar (CAT) up 0.8% and General Electric (GE) up 0.4%. Verizon Communications (VZ) was also strong, up 0.5%, while McDonald's (MCD) advanced 0.4%.
Alcoa helped keep the Dow's gains in check with a drop of 0.9% after Deutsche Bank cut its investment rating on the stock from hold to buy. The firm said it sees a series of "one-off" events, including European Union fines, energy prices and start-up costs, reducing the aluminum giant's ability to benefit from higher aluminum prices. The firm predicted a "disappointing" first quarter for Alcoa, which effectively kicks off the earnings reporting season next Monday.
The Nasdaq Composite (RIXF) climbed 0.1%. The Standard & Poor's 500 (SPX) edged up 0.1%, with financial and energy sectors leading to the upside while health-care stocks weighed.
Crude-oil futures rose to nearly $86 a barrel, while gold futures also edged higher. The dollar strengthened against the euro but was lower against the yen. Treasurys slipped, with the 10-year note recently off 3/32 to yield 3.954%.
The action comes after the Labor Department said in a report Friday that nonfarm payrolls rose by 162,000 in March, the largest gain since March 2007. While that headline number missed analyst estimates, it was all due to smaller-than-expected number of hires by the Commerce Department to conduct the census. Analysts focused on private-sector payrolls, which rose more than predicted.
In addition, the unemployment rate stayed at 9.7% last month, in line with economists' expectations. The stock market was closed Friday, making Monday investors' first opportunity to react to the data.
Also in focus Monday, the Fed is holding a closed-door meeting to review the discount rate, now at 0.75%. That rate is what Fed banks charge to institutions seeking emergency funds. Although the meeting led some analysts Friday to speculate that a discount-rate increase is around the corner, the Fed's board has held several regular meetings at which members have discussed the discount rate that didn't result in any change.
On the corporate front, Apple (AAPL) slipped 0.3% after the company said it sold more than 300,000 iPads in the U.S., including preorders, on the first day the device was available. The figure was below the estimates of some analysts.
Denbury Resources (DNR) climbed 2.1% after the oil-and-gas company reached a deal to sell some of its recently acquired oil and natural gas properties for $900 million to privately held Quantum Resources Management. Denbury plans to use most of the proceeds to repay its $1.6 billion bank credit facility that had $800 million outstanding on March 31.
Still to come, the March non-manufacturing index from the Institute for Supply Management is due at 10 a.m. EDT, along with data on pending-home sales.