- The Washington Times - Friday, October 8, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — Deepening investor pessimism over the economy sent stocks lower yesterday as investors registered their disappointment over the government’s latest jobs report and as oil moved past $53 per barrel. The major indexes ended the week lower.

Investors saw the latest Labor Department report as a sign that the economy continues to struggle through a period of sluggish growth. Only 96,000 new jobs were created in September, far less than the 150,000 Wall Street expected.

Even as jobs remain an issue that has sapped consumer confidence, oil reached $53, adding to concerns that the markets’ traditional fourth-quarter rally would be muted this year — if it arrives at all. A barrel of crude oil set another record, settling at $53.31, up 64 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

“The jobs figure was clearly disappointing, and energy prices are still hanging in there,” said Scott Brown, senior economist at Raymond James. “It’s not a disaster, but the jobs number just isn’t good enough. The markets are taking it fairly well, considering, but it doesn’t help.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 70.20, or 0.7 percent, to 10,055.20.

Broader stock indicators were moderately lower. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 8.51, or 0.8 percent, at 1,122.14, and the Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 28.55, or 1.5 percent, to 1,919.97.

Stocks ended the week lower as climbing oil prices, sluggish retail sales for September and nervousness about the jobs report and the health of the economy prompted investors to collect the modest profits from the previous few weeks of gains. Yesterday’s sell-off, sparked by the jobs report and oil reaching its latest record closing price, made matters worse and put even more pressure on companies releasing earnings next week to far surpass Wall Street’s expectations.

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