Wall Street Pares Losses as Jobs Data Shakes Confidence

Michael Teague  |

The economic recovery and especially Wall Street’s spectacular first quarter run were thrown into question as the Department of Labor’s report indicated that far less jobs were added in March than expected.

The 88,000 jobs created in March fell short of the 190,000 jobs that were expected. The figure is also a far cry from the revised February figure of 268,000 jobs created, and ends a week that also saw disappointing data from ISM’s report for March.

The Department of Labor also showed unemployment had dropped 0.1 percent to 7.6, but the 24,000 job loss in the retail sector was a particular cause for concern, as the labor force participation rate fell to its lowest in over 30 years.

The week was also marked by Thursday’s announcement from the Bank of Japan that it would be following its Western counterparts in the U.S. and Europe by increasing stimulus through purchases of longer-term assets, in order to reach the country’s 2 percent inflation target.

Very late in the day, however, some losses were recovered.

After dropping to as low as 14,434.43, the Dow clawed its way back to 14,565.25, cutting its loss to 0.28 percent. The biggest losses were taken by American Express (AXP), down 2.14 percent to $65.30, as well as Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO), down 2.04 percent to $20.61. Generally speaking, tech stocks were once again the source of significant downward pressure, with Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Intel (INTC), IBM (IBM) all taking losses.

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Meanwhile Boeing (B) was one of the few bright spots, up 1.44 percent to $86.17 on news that it would be conducting “the final certification test for the new battery system” for its 787 dreamliners on Friday, the last step before potential FAA approval of the new plane that has been beset with technical difficulties resulting from battery problems.

The S&P 500 dropped 0.43 percent to 1,553.28 after dipping as low as 1,539.50. Financial and tech stocks also led the way down, with F5 Networks (FFIV) losing a whopping 19 percent to close at $73.21 and Juniper Networks (JNPR) down 3.15 percent to $17.55.

AFLAC (AFL) was down 3.90 percent to $49.49, while Prudential Financial Inc. (PRU) lost 2.60 percent to close at $55.48, and accident and health insurer Unum Group (UNM) down 2.67 percent to $26.26.

A number of oil and gas stocks were on the upside of the S&P, especially independent companies such as WPX Energy (WPX), Cabot Oil & Gas Co. (COG), Southwestern Energy (SWN), Newfield Exploration (NFX), and Chesapeake Energy Corporation (CHK) all clocking in gains of over two percent to over five percent.

The Nasdaq Composite turned out to be the day’s biggest loser, down 0.65 percent to 3,203.86, after dropping as low as 3,168.88 earlier in the day, with health care and tech stocks providing a good deal of the day’s losses. The IT company Radware Ltd. (RDWR) took a 22.65 percent hit to close at $29.07.

Online real-estate company Zillow Inc. (Z) made up for some of the week’s losses by closing up 3.82 percent to $52.19, while online gaming company Zynga (ZNGA)’s turnaround plan seems to be pleasing investors for the moment, with the company closing the day up 2.90 percent to $3.55.

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