Wall Street ended the week with a moderate decline Friday after oil prices jumped on word of possible attacks in Nigeria near production facilities. The rise in crude prices sapped enthusiasm over a US Labor Department report that the nation's unemployment rate fell to a five-year low.
While stocks overall fell for a third straight day, the Dow Jones industrial average, the best-known stock index, logged its first six consecutive day drop since June 2005. Light, sweet crude rose $1.26 to $59.14 on the New York Mercantile Exchange after US diplomats in Nigeria warned that militants are planning a series of kidnappings and bombing attacks in the coming days in areas where oil is extracted.
The Labor Department said the unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent last month from 4.6 percent in September, easing some concerns that the economy has slowed too quickly. For more than a week, investors have been nervous about the strength of the economy following a stream of disappointing data. While Wall Street wants growth to cool so the threat of inflation will dissipate and the Federal Reserve can cut interest rates, a precipitous slowdown could slice into consumer spending and corporate profits.
Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist and director of asset allocation for Trusco Capital Management, said the employment figures suggest the economy has more power than expected going into the holiday spending season but warned that the strength could make the Fed uneasy. "Investors have to digest the notion that the Fed is going to remain poised to lift interest rates as we go into 2007." The Dow closed down 32.50, or 0.27 percent, at 11,986.04. It was the average's first close under 12,000 since Oct. 19, when it finished above that milestone for the first time.
Broader stock indicators also closed lower. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 3.04, or 0.22 percent, to 1,364.30, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 3.23, or 0.14 percent, to 2,330.79.
For the week, the Dow fell 0.86 percent, while the S&P lost 0.95 percent and the Nasdaq lost 0.84 percent.
Friday's economic data sent bonds falling sharply; the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note jumped to 4.71 percent from 4.60 percent late Thursday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.
Though the 92,000 new jobs last month fell short of the 125,000 economists expected, figures for August and September were revised sharply higher. October was the third straight month the unemployment rate showed a decline.
The markets showed little reaction to a second dose of good economic news Friday. The Institute for Supply Management, an organization of corporate purchasing executives, said its index of the service sector rose to 57.1 in October from 52.9 in September; the reading was stronger than expected.
Last month, investors believing a soft landing was in the offing sent stocks higher; the Dow and other indexes rose more than 3 percent.
But this week Wall Street was left casting about as it tried to reconcile its desire for a slowdown with weak economic readings. There was a sense among many investors that perhaps Wall Street was getting too much of what it wanted in the form of weak economic news, while other observers regarded the data as merely turbulence that accompanies even a soft landing in the economy.
"This is what it's like to live in a data-dependent market," Gayle said of the reaction to the jobs report. "We may see a near-term correction after a couple of months of strong performance. That's not to be unexpected. The market seems to be reasonably valued and fundamentally sound." Friday brought another batch of mixed earnings reports. Electronic Arts Inc., the video game maker, reported stronger-than-expected results, while the grocery chain Whole Foods Market Inc. lowered its 20007 forecast.
Electronic Arts jumped $6.24, or 11.8 percent, to $59.24 after its fiscal second-quarter profit proved to be better than Wall Street expected and the company raised its forecast for the year.
Whole Foods, however, warned Wall Street that the coming year will be one of transition and that sales gains will likely moderate. Whole Foods fell $13.86, or 23 percent, to $46.26.
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc., fell $12, or 26 percent, to $34 after the casual restaurant chain reported a weaker-than-expected third-quarter profit and reduced its full-year forecast.
Duke Energy Corp. fell 40 cents to $31.09 after reporting that lower natural gas prices, plant outages and increased costs hurt third-quarter results.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 6 to 5 on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 2.44 billion shares, compared with 2.7 billion traded Thursday.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 2.60, or 0.35 percent, to 752.73.
Overseas, Britain's FTSE 100 closed down 0.02 percent, Germany's DAX index rose 0.29 percent, and France's CAC-40 advanced 0.49 percent. Markets were closed in Japan for a national holiday.
The Dow Jones industrials ended the week down 104.22, or 0.86 percent, to finish at 11,986.04. The S&P 500 index fell 13.04, or 0.95 percent, to 1,364.30.
The Nasdaq fell 19.83, or 0.84 percent, to end at 2,330.79.
The Russell 2000 index closed the week down 13.11, or 1.71 percent, at 752.73.
The Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 Composite Index - a free-float weighted index that measures 5,000 US based companies- ended the week at 13,683.52, down 136.90 points from last week. A year ago the index was at 12,218.27.