Stocks gain despite report of big job loss
NEW YORK » Wall Street showed some reassuring signs of stability yesterday, closing mostly higher despite the biggest monthly decline in jobs in five years. The major indexes ended the first four sessions of the second quarter with a healthy advance.
While some nervous 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 indeed a significant sign of economic weakness, a lackluster report was widely expected, and some investors were relieved the total was not higher.
Payrolls for January and February were revised lower by a total of 67,000 and the unemployment rate shot up to 5.1 percent, the highest since Sept- ember 2005.
"The economic data is negative, but I think what the market's telling us is we've priced in a lot of the bad news already," said Arthur Hogan, chief market strategist at Jefferies & Co.
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. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 0.16, or 0.02 percent, to 713.73.
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.
In corporate news, GM fell after a private equity group said it terminated its agreement to invest $2.55 billion in the company's largest auto parts supplier, Delphi Corp., which has been trying to emerge from bankruptcy protection. GM fell $1.01, or 4.7 percent, to $20.58.