April 5, 2008 in City

Market stable despite report of 80,000 jobs lost

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review

NEW YORK – Wall Street showed some reassuring signs of stability Friday, closing mostly higher despite the biggest monthly decline in jobs in five years. Major indexes ended the first four sessions of the second quarter with a healthy advance.

While some investors fled to government bonds, the report, showing the economy gave up 80,000 jobs last month, appeared to simply confirm many investors’ assumptions of a widespread economic slowdown.

Although the job losses, the most since March 2003, are a significant sign of economic weakness, a lackluster report was widely expected, and some investors were relieved the total was not higher. Thomson/IFR had projected 15,000 jobs were lost in March, but some economists expected 150,000 cuts.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 16.61, or 0.13 percent, to 12,609.42, in part because of a decline in General Motors Corp. stock.

Broader stock indicators edged higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 1.09, or 0.08 percent, to 1,370.40, and the Nasdaq composite index advanced 7.68, or 0.32 percent, to 2,370.98.

Though the major indexes showed modest moves, advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 3.59 billion shares compared with 3.77 billion traded Thursday.

For the second quarter, which began Tuesday, the Dow is up 2.83 percent, the S&P 500 gained 3.61 percent, and the Nasdaq added 4.03 percent. For the entire week, the Dow rose 3.22 percent, the S&P 500 added 4.20 percent and the Nasdaq gained 4.86 percent.

Treasury prices jumped after the jobs report, as investors often seek the safety of government-backed bonds amid uncertainty about the economy. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.47 percent in late trading from 3.59 percent late Thursday.

The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

Light, sweet crude rose $2.40 to settle at $106.23 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Retail gas prices, meanwhile, surged to a new record above $3.30 a gallon, and appear ready to rise further as supplies tighten ahead of the summer driving season.

Investors’ assessment of the economy comes after a strong week for Wall Street. Monday brought the welcome end to a downbeat first quarter. While the S&P 500 fell nearly 10 percent during the first three months of the year, stocks had managed to pull off their lows by quarter’s end.

On Tuesday, the Dow surged nearly 400 points as investors snapped up shares of financial companies, which have fallen sharply in recent months on concerns about bad debt on balance sheets. The quiet sessions since, including Friday’s modest moves in the face of bad economic news, appeared to buoy some hopes that the market is carving a bottom after five months of declines in the S&P.

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