Midday Market Update: Troubled U.S. Labor Market Sends Stocks Tumbling

By Jennifer Yousfi
Managing Editor

U.S. stocks extended losses today (Friday) on news that non-farm payrolls declined the most since 2003 with a loss of 63,000 jobs in February.

"The economy has stopped producing jobs, and we're one step closer to one quarter of negative growth; I suspect we're in for another rocky day," Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners, told MarketWatch.

At noon ET, the three major U.S. stock indices had all sunk lower. The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average Index had a decline of 88.98 points (-0.74%), to trade at 11,951.41. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index slumped 3.59 points (-0.16%), to reach 2,216.91. And the broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index had a slip of 6.60 points (-0.51%), to settle at 1,297.74.

The basic materials (-1.56%) and capital goods (-1.03%) sectors had the biggest declines. The financial (0.05%) and technology (0.08%) sectors had slight gains.

"This is definitely bad news," Ed Peters, chief investment officer at PanAgora Asset Management in Boston, told Bloomberg News in reference to the jobs report. "It increases the chance for a real recession happening if consumers start to pull back significantly."

The loss of 63,000 jobs was in sharp contrast to analyst expectations of an increase of 23,000 jobs. Weakness in the labor market means a contraction in consumer spending is more likely, pushing the U.S. economy even closer to recession.

In overseas markets, Japan's Nikkei Index declined 3.3% had a 432.62-point gain to reach 12,782.80. Hong Kong's blue-chip Hang Seng Index dropped to its lowest level in six years with an 841.40-point decline to close at 22,501.33.

In Europe, concerns about the U.S. economy sent markets lower. The Paris-based CAC40, London's FTSE 100, Madrid's IBEX 35 and the Frankfurt-based DAX all posted declines.

At midday, the dollar had lost ground against the pound sterling [down 0.293%], but gained against the euro [up 0.156%] and the yen [up 0.566%].

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