Stock Market Today: Stocks Rise Ahead March Jobs Report

While the major indexes closed flat to slightly lower for the week, oil prices soared.

close up of blue stock market chart
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Stocks ended the short trading week on a positive note after the latest reading on unemployment claims underscored signs of a softening labor market. 

The data comes ahead of the March jobs report, which will be released tomorrow morning. While the stock market will be closed for Good Friday, investors are still anxiously awaiting the monthly employment figures – particularly because this is the last major labor market update ahead of the next Fed meeting

The Labor Department this morning said that weekly jobless claims fell to 228,000 last week from the previous week's upwardly revised 246,000. Several weeks' worth of reports were revised higher due to a new seasonal-adjustments calculation, lifting the average weekly jobless claims for all of March to 237,750 from 200,000.

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Today's unemployment claims data follows the release of several recent economic reports, including Wednesday's private payrolls figures, that suggest the Fed's efforts to slow the economy are working. Economists are expecting the March payrolls report to show jobs growth moderated last month, forecasting 239,000 new jobs vs February's 311,000.

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Drilling down on today's sector performances, communication services stocks outperformed thanks to solid gains in Alphabet (GOOGL, +3.8%) and Meta Platforms (META, +2.2%). Financials also did well as regional bank stocks rebounded after Wednesday's selloff. Western Alliance (WAL, +4.8%) and First Republic (FRC, +4.3%) were among the day's biggest advancers.

As for the major indexes, the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.8% to 12,087 and the S&P 500 gained 0.4% to 4,105. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, meanwhile, eked out a marginal gain to end at 33,485. 

The best oil stocks to buy

While the stock market closed flat to slightly lower for the week, oil prices rose sharply. U.S. crude futures closed at $80.70 per barrel, up about 6.7% from last Friday's close.

The key commodity got a lift thanks to an unexpected output cut from OPEC+ (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies). Rising crude prices  predictably lit a fire under energy stocks, which lagged in the first quarter. Daan Struyven, senior energy economist at Goldman Sachs Commodities Research, cited OPEC+'s "bullish surprise" as the reason for lifting both his short- and long-term price forecasts for global oil prices. 

Note well that continued gains for crude should benefit the top-rated oil stocks, as well as select energy ETFs.

Karee Venema
Contributing Editor,

With over a decade of experience writing about the stock market, Karee Venema is an investing editor and options expert at She joined the publication in April 2021 after 10 years of working as an investing writer and columnist at Schaeffer's Investment Research. In her previous role, Karee focused primarily on options trading, as well as technical, fundamental and sentiment analysis.