- The Washington Times - Friday, February 5, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock indexes fell Friday following mixed news from the Labor Department’s monthly employment report.

The Dow Jones industrial average dipped below the 10,000 line.

Concerns about mounting debt problems for European governments weighed on the market again. Stocks had tumbled around the world Thursday as worries about the global economy deepened, and the Dow and other major indexes were headed for their fourth straight weekly loss.

The government’s closely watched jobs report said that the unemployment rate unexpectedly fell in January to 9.7 percent from 10 percent, even though analysts expected an uptick.

TWT RELATED ST0RIES:
January unemployment dropped to 9.7%

At the same time, however, employers cut 20,000 jobs, more than the 5,000 economists expected, according to Thomson Reuters. The two numbers are calculated from different surveys.

Timothy Speiss, head of Eisner LLP’s Personal Wealth Advisors group, said the improving unemployment rate was a good sign, but investors are well aware that the problems in the economy that have stocks falling in recent weeks are still there.

“There will be excitement, relief about the number,” Speiss said. “But we need to keep going.”

In early afternoon trading, the Dow fell 60.16, or 0.6 percent, to 9,942.02. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 5.84, or 0.6 percent, to 1,057.27, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 3.92, or 0.2 percent, to 2,121.51.

Three stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 517.6 million shares, compared with 501 million traded at the same point Thursday.

The Labor Department revised some of its past statistics lower, painting a grimmer picture about how bad the economy was hurt during the recession. The economy has shed 8.4 million jobs since the downturn began in December 2007, compared with a previous estimate of 7.2 million.

December job cuts were also revised lower. In the final month of 2009, employers cut 150,000 jobs, not the 85,000 previously reported.

Analysts say there were some encouraging signs in the report. The number of average hours worked and hourly pay both improved, as did the number of employers adding temporary workers. The hiring of temporary employees usually precedes companies adding permanent jobs during a recovery.

The “underemployment” rate, which includes part-time workers looking for full-time work and discouraged workers, fell to 16.5 percent from 17.3 percent. Some analysts say that is a better representation of the job market than the unemployment rate.

“Jobs may not be a plus yet,” said John Merrill, chief investment officer at Tanglewood Wealth Management. But, he added: “the trend is unmistakable. It’s clearly positive.”

The latest drop in stocks reflects concerns three members of the euro currency bloc — Greece, Spain and Portugal — will have trouble tightening budget controls to manage mounting deficits, helping to derail a recovery in Europe. Trouble mounted in Portugal Friday as opposition parties defeated a government austerity plan.

Stocks fell sharply in late January after China said it would rein in loose bank lending standards to cool its economy and avoid speculative bubbles. President Barack Obama’s calls for tighter regulations on U.S. banks contributed to the slide.

Overseas markets fell again Friday following the global rout the day before.

Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 2.9 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng tumbled 3.3 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 1.5 percent, Germany’s DAX index dropped 1.5 percent, and France’s CAC-40 tumbled 3.4 percent.

Demand for safer investments rose as stocks tumbled. The dollar rose again Friday, while Treasury bond prices inched higher. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite to its price, fell to 3.58 percent from 3.61 percent.

Gold prices fell. Oil fell $3.12 to $70.03 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 0.56, or 0.1 percent, to 590.24.

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