NEW YORK – The stock market found little to celebrate heading into the long holiday weekend.
Major stock indexes fell more than 2.6 percent Thursday, pushing the Dow Jones industrials to their lowest level in six weeks, after the government said the unemployment rate hit a 26-year high and employers cut far more jobs than expected.
The data was especially disappointing since it broke a trend of four straight months of improvement in job losses. The report – one of the most closely watched gauges of the economy’s health – delivered the latest blow to the market’s already waning confidence.
The Dow closed the week down 157.65, or 1.9 percent, at 8,280.74. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 22.48, 2.5 percent, to 896.42. The Nasdaq composite index fell 41.70, or 2.3 percent, to 1,796.52.
Investor optimism has been shaken in recent weeks amid a barrage of mixed economic reports, making for an erratic market.
This past week was no exception. Stocks rose Monday, then erased nearly all their gains the following day after a report showing an unexpected drop in consumer confidence.
On Wednesday the market bounced back after getting some reassuring data on manufacturing and housing, only to tumble again on Thursday on the disappointing jobs report.
“There’s not a lot of conviction on either side,” said Jill Evans, co-portfolio manager of the Alpine Dynamic Dividend Fund.
The stock market rallied furiously this spring off of 12-year lows beginning in early March on hopes for a recovery, but the upward momentum has stalled since mid-June as doubts grow about whether the economy had really found a bottom.
Since hitting multi-month highs on June 12, the Dow has fallen a total of 5.9 percent, while the S&P 500 index has lost 5.3 percent.
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