Friday, February 01, 2013 10:14 AM EST Stocks start strong Canadian mfg. numbers out North American equity markets charged out of the blocks to end the week and begin the month of February, amid steady U.S. job growth and equally consistent Canadian manufacturing activity. The S&P/TSX Composite Index leaped 76.85 points to open Friday at 12,762.09 The Canadian dollar faded 0.24 cents to 100.02 cents U.S. Canadian Oil Sands posted a 4.7% drop in fourth-quarter profit on Thursday, despite higher production, as oil prices fell. Oil Sands stock dropped a penny to $20.98 Elsewhere, Barrick Gold Corp has started a process to sell its oil and gas unit, Barrick Energy, as it seeks to offload non-core assets. Barrick shares galloped 38 cents to $32.14 Sears Canada, struggling with shrinking sales and the looming arrival of Target Corp on the Canadian retail scene, said on Thursday it was laying off 700 workers as part of a plan to "right-size" the operation. Sears shares fell a nickel to $9.49 In economic news, the RBC Purchasing Managers’ Index was little changed in January – and manufacturing activity with it -- inching up to 50.5 in the month from the 50.4 level in both December and November. ON BAYSTREET The TSX Venture Exchange improved 7.08 points to 1,228.79 All but one of the 14 Toronto subgroups were positive to start Friday off. Gold shone 1.6% brighter, while the metals and mining and materials groups each hiked 1.3%. Only utilities held out against the positive tide, fading 0.2%. ON WALLSTREET U.S. stocks opened solidly higher Friday as investors absorbed the January jobs report. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 108.36 points to open at 13,968.90 The S&P 500 recovered 7.14 points to 1,505.25. The tech-heavy NASDAQ Composite spiked 20.09 points to 3,162.22 Stocks have started the year strong, with the Dow gaining 5.9% in January, the best performance for that month since 1994. Both the Dow and S&P 500 are flirting with their all-time highs reached in October 2007. The Dow is just a little more than 2% from its record high, while the S&P 500 is about 5% from its highest level. In corporate news, Exxon Mobil reported better-than-expected earnings and revenue, but shares edged lower. Rival oil giant Chevron is also on tap to report earnings. Merck shares declined after the company topped earnings expectations but gave a cautious outlook for 2013. Shares of toy maker Mattel edged higher even after it missed earnings and sales forecast for the fourth quarter, which includes the holiday shopping period. Dell shares climbed almost 5% after a Reuters report said the PC maker is nearing a deal to go private as early as Monday. The company, which is behind brands like Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price, said sales of Barbie brand products slipped 4% last quarter. Zoetis, an animal-health company owned by drug giant Pfizer, will make its public debut Friday, listing on New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ZTS. The company raised $2.2 billion U.S. in its initial public offering, with shares pricing at $26 U.S. each, well above the target range. Zoetis' IPO is the largest since Facebook raised $16 billion U.S. last May. On the economic front, the U.S. economy added 157,000 jobs last month, fewer than the 180,000 economists were expecting, but investors were encouraged by the government's revisions to its 2012 data. The revisions showed that the economy added 335,000 more jobs in 2012 than originally reported. In January, however, the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 7.9% from 7.8% in December. Economists were expecting the rate to edge lower to 7.7%. Also on the agenda Friday, the Census Bureau will release data on December construction spending after the opening bell. The Institute for Supply Management will also publish its monthly manufacturing index, and the University of Michigan will release data on consumer sentiment. Prices on the 10-year U.S. Treasury strengthened, lowering yields to 1.94% from Thursday 2.00%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions. Oil prices fell 94 cents to $96.55 U.S. a barrel. Gold prices added $17.70 to $1,679.70 U.S. an ounce.