Oil rises on Syria attack, dollar shrugs off jobs report

By Herbert Lash
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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S., April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil traded near a one-month high on Friday after the U.S. missile strike on a Syrian air base while the dollar rose as investors dismissed a weak U.S. jobs report as not enough to derail a strong economy or outlook for rising interest rates.

The toughest U.S. action in Syria's six-year-old civil war raised geopolitical uncertainty in the Middle East and initially hit assets considered higher risk such as equities and oil.

Gold, a safe-haven, climbed to a five-month high and yields on risk-averse benchmark U.S. Treasuries briefly slid to four-month lows. But stocks pared losses to close higher in Europe and were on track to do the same on Wall Street.

U.S. crude rose 39 cents to $52.09 a barrel and Brent was last at $55.16, up 27 cents on the day.

Spot gold added 0.1 percent to $1,252.50 an ounce, paring gains that pushed prices to $1,270.46, the highest since early November.

A jobs report seen as out-of-step with the labor market kept alive investors' expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates twice more in 2017 as the unemployment rate last month declined to 4.5 percent from 4.7 percent in February.

"As long as we see the unemployment rate decline, we will see more rate hikes," said Cathy Barrera, chief economic adviser at ZipRecuiter in New York.

News of the U.S. cruise missile strikes on the Syrian air base at first sent global stocks lower, but they turned higher after U.S. officials described the attack as a one-off event that would not lead to wider escalation.

Industrials led U.S. and European stocks higher on the prospect of higher economic growth.

U.S. corporate profits for the first quarter will be up 9 percent to 10 percent from a year earlier, and give the market a lift when earnings season begins next week, said Phil Orlando, chief equity strategist at Federated Investors in New York.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 98,000 jobs last month, the fewest since last May, the Labor Department said. A major snow storm dubbed Stella in the Northeast during the week in March of the employment survey led to a step-down in hiring.

"Our thinking is that there is nothing wrong with the labor market, other than the timing of Stella," Orlando said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> rose 59.93 points, or 0.29 percent, to 20,722.88. The S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 5.25 points, or 0.22 percent, to 2,362.74 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 11.62 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,890.57.

In Europe, the pan-regional FTSEurofirst 300 index <.FTEU3> rose 0.18 percent to close at 1,502.68, while MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe <.MIWD00000PUS> shed 0.02 percent.

The drop in the unemployment rate suggested the labor market was still tightening and does not change the outlook for bonds.

U.S. 10- and seven-year yields briefly hit 2.269 percent and 2.072 percent, respectively, their lowest since Nov. 18. U.S. 30-year yields touched 2.939 percent, their lowest since mid-January.

Benchmark 10-year notes were last down 7/32 in price to yield 2.3696 percent.

"There was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to the headline," said Mark Cabana, head of U.S. short rates strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York.

(Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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