- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2009

NEW YORK | Investors shuffled through the final day of trading before the government’s July employment report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost nearly 25 points and other major indexes suffered moderate losses Thursday as worries about the Labor Department’s report dominated trading for a third day. A stream of disappointing July sales numbers from major retailers added to Wall Street’s uneasy mood.

A recovery in the job market is crucial to the economy’s ability to pull itself from the longest recession since World War II. Unemployment often continues to rise after a recovery begins, but investors need to see the pace of job losses slowing before they’ll continue the rally that began last spring.

Even with the worries about jobs, the market’s slowdown this week isn’t surprising. Analysts have been calling for a time-out because the Dow has surged 13.6 percent in just 19 days on hopes the economy is strengthening.

A mixed weekly unemployment report offered investors little encouragement ahead of Friday’s numbers. The government said new claims for unemployment benefits fell to 550,000 last week, from a revised 588,000 the previous week. Economists had been looking for 580,000 new claims.

There also was sobering news: The number of people continuing to claim benefits rose by 69,000 to 6.3 million after dropping for three straight weeks.

The Dow fell 24.71, or 0.3 percent, to 9,256.26. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index lost 5.64, or 0.6 percent, to 997.08, its first finish below 1,000 since Friday. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 19.89, or 1 percent, to 1,973.16.

American Express Co. helped pull up shares of some financial companies after the credit card issuer said that the rate of losses on credit card loans is slowing.

AmEx shares rose 95 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $31.31. Shares of Citigroup Inc., among the banks hit hardest by the credit crisis, rose 22 cents, or 6.2 percent, to $3.80.

Shares of retailers were mixed following the lackluster sales reports. Teen retailer Wet Seal Inc. slipped 6 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $3.31, while Limited Brands Inc. shot up $1.65, or 13 percent, to $14.39.

In other trading, the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 8.37, or 1.5 percent, to 557.62.

Bond prices were mixed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.77 percent from 3.75 percent late Wednesday.

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