US stocks fall sharply on weak jobs report

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 146 points, bringing its two-day slide to 370.

stock market good 88 (photo credit: )
stock market good 88
(photo credit: )
SHARES WALL STREET Stocks tumbled for a second consecutive session Friday after the government's February jobs report revealed employers slashed payrolls last month, compounding fears that the US economy is succumbing to recession. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 146 points, bringing its two-day slide to 370. Last week's declines in the three major stock indexes to their lowest settlements since 2006 came despite the Federal Reserve's announcement that it would take steps to aid the credit markets. The US Labor Department's report that employers cut jobs by 63,000 last month - the most since March 2003 - unnerved investors worried about the health of the economy and who had been expecting a 25,000 gain in jobs. While the unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent, the decline reflects people leaving the labor force. The payroll numbers arrived minutes after the Federal Reserve announced it would take fresh steps to ease credit troubles, including boosting the amount of money it will auction to banks. The Dow fell 146.70, or 1.22%, to 11,893.69. On Thursday, the Dow's 214-point drop came on resurgent concerns about the health of the credit markets. The index has not closed below 11,900 since October 2006, but on January 22 dropped during intraday trading to 11,634.82. Broader stock indicators also declined. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 10.97, or 0.84%, to 1,293.37 - its lowest settlement since August 2006. The Nasdaq composite index fell 8.01, or 0.36%, to 2,212.49, the lowest the tech-dominated index has finished since September 2006. It was a rough week for Wall Street - the Dow fell 3.04%, the S&P fell 2.80% and the Nasdaq fell 2.60%. EUROPE Shares ended the week on a downbeat note, led lower by mining stocks as disappointing US employment data raised more fears about the health of the world's largest economy. The pan-European Dow Jones Stoxx 600 index fell 1.1% to 307.98 - chalking up a second straight day of losses - with miners posting the biggest losses after the data. The UK's FTSE 100 index closed down 1.2% to 5,699.90, the German DAX 30 index lost 1.2% to 6,513.99 and the French CAC-40 index dropped 1.3% to 4,618.96. ASIA Japanese stocks tumbled Friday as investors sold exporter issues after the dollar weakened further against the yen. Real estate companies and banks also lost ground. The Nikkei 225 stock average hit its lowest closing level since January 22, dropping 432.62 points, or 3.27%, to 12,782.80 following a 1.88% rise Thursday. The Topix index of all the Tokyo Stock Exchange First Section issues fell 39.78 points, or 3.1%, to 1247.77. It rose 1.87% Thursday. CURRENCY The dollar briefly fell to a record low against the euro Friday after data showed US job cuts rose to the biggest monthly number in five years. But the greenback regained lost ground and was trading higher against the euro by late afternoon as traders pondered the Federal Reserve's announcement that it would provide more cash to banks that need it. The US Labor Department said American employers cut 63,000 jobs in February - the starkest sign yet that the US is heading toward a recession or has entered one already. Those fears pushed the 15-nation euro as high as $1.5463. That pushed the euro down to $1.5335 in late afternoon New York trading - below the $1.5365 it bought late Thursday. European businesses say they are starting to feel the pinch, notably from US-based buyers who assert that the high euro makes European goods more expensive. Also Friday, the pound traded above the $2 mark for a second day, buying $2.0173 - above the $2.0092 it bought the previous day. It had jumped Thursday after the Bank of England kept its key interest rate unchanged at 5.25%. The dollar fell as low as 101.40 Japanese yen, near a three-year low, before it recovered to 103.09 yen in late New York trading, unchanged from late Thursday. In other New York trading, the dollar rose to 1.0175 Canadian dollars from 1.0144 Canadian dollars Thursday. COMMODITIES Light, sweet crude oil for April delivery rose 26 cents to $105.73 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after earlier reaching a new trading record of $106.54. Other energy futures traded mixed. April gasoline futures added 3.08 cents to $2.6840 a gallon on the Nymex, while April heating oil futures edged 1.11 cents lower to $2.9622 a gallon. Gold for April delivery lost $3.20 to $973.90 an ounce on the Nymex, while March silver added 2.7 cents to settle at $20.158.