NEW YORK – Investors retreated further from stocks Friday as the pile of disappointing economic reports grew larger.
A modest slide left stocks lower for a second week, the first consecutive drop since July. The Dow Jones industrial average fell for a fourth day, losing 22 points one day after sliding 203 on reports of weak manufacturing and a jump in claims for jobless benefits.
The loss Friday came as the government said employers cut more jobs than economists had expected last month and that orders at factories fell. The reports added to concerns that the economy’s recovery could be further off than had been hoped.
The market’s optimism has been tested by economic data that have either weakened or fallen short of expectations, a disappointment after several months of hopeful signs from key industries like housing and manufacturing. That has led investors to question whether the 50 percent surge in stocks over the past six months can be sustained.
With nerves running high, stocks have fallen in seven of the last eight days. The Dow has lost about 4.3 percent since coming within 82 points of the 10,000 level on Sept. 23.
Bruce Shalett, managing partner of Wynston Hill Capital in New York, said the jobs report was “a reminder that while things are not as dire as they were a year ago, we still have a lot of work to do.”
Many found the relatively calm response to the jobs report encouraging, taking it as a sign there are still investors willing to use the dips to pick up stocks they consider cheap.
“Pullbacks are going to constantly be used as opportunities to get into the market,” said Hank Smith, chief investment officer of equity at Haverford Investments in Radnor, Pa.
Stocks are coming off a robust third quarter. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 index gained 15 percent in the July-September period. It was the Dow’s best quarter since 1998.