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Dow Closes Within Striking Distance of 18,000

Stocks rallied Friday, with the Dow industrials closing at a record within a stone's throw of the 18,000 mark, as investors embraced a stronger-than-forecast November payrolls report.

U.S. employers created 321,000 jobs last month, the largest gain since January 2012. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at a six-year low of 5.8 percent, and hourly earnings increased 0.4 percent. "The bottom line is this was yet another very solid employment report and another strong data point reaffirming the strength of U.S. growth versus a sluggish global (economy)," Rick Rieder, chief investment officer of fundamental fixed income at BlackRock, wrote in a note to reporters.

The upbeat jobs data helped support the view that the economy can handle rate hikes by the Federal Reserve in 2015. After a 91-point advance lifted it to a record and within 9 points of the psychological milestone of 18,000, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended about 0.3 percent higher. Also climbing to a record, the S&P 500 advanced nearly 0.2 percent. The Nasdaq also added 0.2 percent.

Economy adds 321,000 jobs in November 1:36

IN-DEPTH

-- CNBC's Kate Gibson and The Associated Press