- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 3, 2009

NEW YORK | Investors retreated further from stocks Friday as the pile of disappointing economic reports grew larger.

A modest slide left stocks lower for a second week, the first consecutive drop since July. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell for a fourth day, losing 22 points one day after sliding 203 on reports of weak manufacturing and a jump in claims for jobless benefits.

The loss Friday came as the government said employers cut more jobs than economists had expected last month and that factory orders fell. The reports added to concerns that the economy’s recovery could be further off than had been hoped.

The Labor Department surprised investors with its report that employers shed 263,000 jobs last month. The cuts went beyond the 201,000 jobs lost in August and were far larger than the 180,000 economists expected. The unemployment rate ticked up to 9.8 percent from 9.7 percent, as forecast.

“There’s been a lot of talk particularly in the last couple of months that we’re seeing a turnaround in unemployment, and obviously that’s not the case,” said Dan Cook, senior market analyst at IG Markets in Chicago.

Meanwhile, the surprise drop in factory orders added to the lackluster economic readings of the past two weeks. The Commerce Department said factory orders fell 0.8 percent in August. Analysts had been expecting an increase.

The market’s optimism has been tested by economic data that have either weakened or fallen short of expectations, a disappointment after several months of hopeful signs from key industries like housing and manufacturing. That has led investors to question whether the 50 percent surge in stocks over the past six months can be sustained.

With nerves running high, stocks have fallen in seven of the last eight days. The Dow has lost about 4.3 percent since coming within 82 points of the 10,000 level last week.

Bruce Shalett, managing partner, Wynston Hill Capital in New York said the jobs report was “a reminder that while things are not as dire as they were a year ago, we still have a lot of work to do.”

Many found the relatively calm response to the jobs report encouraging, taking it as a sign there are still investors willing to use the dips to pick up stocks they consider cheap.

“Pullbacks are going to constantly be used as opportunities to get into the market,” said Hank Smith, chief investment officer of equity at Haverford Investments in Radnor, Pa.

Some of Thursday’s selling was likely due to investors making bets that the employment number would indeed be bad. That would also help explain Friday’s muted selling. The Dow fell 21.61, or 0.2 percent, to 9,487.67, its lowest close since Sept. 4. The index fell as much as 79 points during trading.

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 4.64, or 0.5 percent, to 1,025.21, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 9.37, or 0.5 percent, to 2,048.11. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 3.55, or 0.6 percent, to 580.20.

Two stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.4 billion shares compared with 1.6 billion Thursday.

For the week, the Dow fell 1.8 percent, its biggest loss since early July. The S&P; 500 index lost 1.8 percent after falling 2.2 percent last week. The Nasdaq fell 2 percent for the week.

Yields on long-term Treasurys moved off their lowest levels since the spring. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 3.22 percent from 3.18 percent late Thursday.

Crude oil fell 87 cents to settle at $69.95 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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