Strong Job Gains Send U.S. Stock Market Sharply Higher 

NEW YORK (AP) -

The stock market surged to its biggest gain since early September Friday after another strong month of hiring by U.S. employers.

The solid news on the economy opened the way for the Federal Reserve to begin raising interest rates back toward normal levels later this month. Energy stocks and the price of crude oil fell after OPEC said it won’t cut production.

Stocks started the day higher after the Labor Department said employers added 211,000 jobs in November. That was more than investors expected, and a sign that consumers are still spending and keeping the economy afloat even as manufacturing and energy companies are struggling.

The rally gained more power after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the ECB is ready to expand its stimulus program if necessary. That was a relief: stocks and bonds tumbled Thursday after the ECB announced some new stimulus measures, but didn’t do as much as investors expected.

The& Dow& Jones& industrial average rose 369.96 points, or 2.1 percent, to 17,847.63. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index had its best day since Sept. 8, rising 42.07 points, or 2.1 percent, to 2,091.69. The Nasdaq composite increased 104.74 points, or 2.1 percent, to 5,142.27 points.

Consumer discretionary stocks were the best performers in the S&P 500. Discount retailer Dollar Tree, toy maker Mattel and homebuilder D.R. Horton climbed, and Apple rose $3.83, or 3.3 percent, to $119.03.

Energy stocks, however, took a beating, and almost all of the largest losses in the S&P 500 went to energy companies. Oil cartel OPEC said it won’t cut oil production even though global stockpiles keep growing. The price of oil is trading near six-year lows.

The price of U.S. crude fell $1.11, or 2.7 percent, to $39.97 a barrel in N.Y. Brent crude slid 84 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $43.

Warm weather in the U.S. is hurting demand for heating fuels like natural gas and heating oil. Natural gas drillers, pipeline companies and oil and gas service companies were all pummeled.

Stephen Schork, an independent analyst and trader, said that’s because weather throughout much of the U.S. remains warm, meaning Americans aren’t using as much energy to heat their homes.

Murphy Oil lost 85 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $25.46. Helmerich & Payne fell 2.23, or 4 percent, to $53.38. Southwestern Energy shed 45 cents, or 5.5 percent, to $7.74. Chesapeake Energy declined 32 cents, or 6.6 percent, to $4.55.

In other trading of energy futures, wholesale gasoline fell 2.6 cents, or 2 percent, to $1.27 a gallon. Heating oil declined 1.6 cents to $1.342 a gallon. Natural gas inched up 0.5 cents to $2.816 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The dollar regained some strength against the euro. The euro slipped to $1.0871 from $1.0975, and the dollar rose to 123.22 yen from 122.31 yen Thursday. Bond prices also bounced back, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.27 percent from 2.32 percent.

Avon Products rose as reports said the company may sell its North American business to Cerberus Capital Management. Avon jumped 23 cents, or 5.8 percent, to $4.22.

Gold gained $22.90, or 2.2 percent, to $1,084.10. Silver added 45 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $14.53 an ounce. Copper inched up 1.8 cents to $2.079 a pound.