- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

UPDATED:

Wall Street opened Friday on shaky ground, following a monthly government report that showed the U.S. economy lost another 663,000 jobs in March.

The Dow was down 42.45 points, to 7,935.63, about an hour after trading started. The Standard and Poor’s 500-stocks Index was at 830.90, down 3.48 points, and the NASDAQ was down 5.71 points, to 1,606.28.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report, a key economic indicator for Wall Street, was released amid a market rally in March that continued into Thursday when the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 216.32 points to close at 7,977.92, after breaking the 8,000 mark for much of the afternoon.

The Dow has not exceeded 8,000 since early February but its average is up 20.4 percent since March 9 — its best four-week run since 1933.

The report Friday morning also shows the national unemployment rate reached 8.5 percent, from 8.1 percent in February, its highest levels since 1983, when the country was still a deep recession and unemployment exceeded 10 percent.

The report marks a record fourth consecutive month in which the U.S. has lost more than 600,000. It also marks the 15th consecutive month of job losses and that more than 5 million jobs in the United States have been lost since the recession started in December 2007, according the the report.

The agency also revised the job-losses in January to 741,000, from 655,000, but left unchanged the February number of 651,000.

A large number of unemployed people will slow the economic recovery because they will not have money to spend, and consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, analysts say.

The futures markets had mixed closing results, ahead of the report and its anticipated numbers.

The Dow industrial average futures fell 2, to 7,956. S&P’s 500 index futures rose 0.20, to 835.70, and the NASDAQ 100 index futures rose 8.50, to 1,310.00.

The report Friday was the last of other economic indicators that showed the U.S. economy could be touching bottom and heading for a recovery.

On Thursday, world leaders at the G-20 summit in London vowed to spend roughly $1.1 trillion to stimulate the global economy, tighten regulations in financial markets, rid banks of toxic debt so they can again make loans, and expose tax havens. The leaders also vowed to help improve the global economic crisis by bolstering the powers of the International Monetary Fund, in part with an additional $500 billion.

The release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics findings marked the third consecutive day of dismal labor reports. A Labor Department report Thursday stated initial claims for unemployment insurance increased to a seasonally adjusted 669,000 — 12,000 more than the previous week’s revised figures. The number exceeded analysts expectations and is the highest in more than 26 years.

On Wednesday, an Automatic Data Processing Inc. report stated private-sector employment decreased by 742,000 in March. The same day, a National Association of Realtors report stated pending home sales rebounded in February from a record low. And the Institute for Supply Management reported U.S. manufacturing activity shrunk by less than anticipated. The numbers in both reports were better than anticipated.

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