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US Stocks Tumble After Jobs Report; Nasdaq Faces Year's Biggest Decline

05/04/2012 | 02:32pm US/Eastern
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--Stocks fall after jobs data show economy added fewer jobs than expected last month

--Nasdaq on course for year's biggest decline this year

--DJIA, S&P 500 set to post their biggest declines in a month

 
   By Chris Dieterich 
   OF  
 

The Nasdaq was on course for its biggest decline of the year after a worrying reading from the jobs market raised concerns about the pace of U.S. economic growth and drove stocks lower.

The Nasdaq Composite slid 59 points, or 2%, to 2966, driving the technology-heavy benchmark toward steepest weekly loss in since December.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 150 points, or 1.1%, to 13055, in afternoon trading on Friday. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index shed 19 points, or 1.4%, to 1372. Both benchmarks were set to post their biggest declines in a month.

All 30 of the Dow's components fell. Energy-sector stocks including Chevron, down 2.4%, led the market lower as oil prices fell below $100 a barrel for first time since February. Cisco Systems lost 2.9% and J.P. Morgan Chase fell 2.3%.

Kraft Foods fell 0.5% with the broader market after the blue-chip packaged-food company's first-quarter earnings and revenue both topped analysts' expectations, and the company also backed its outlook for the year.

LinkedIn rallied 7.3% after the company reported first-quarter earnings and revenue that beat estimates and raised its full-year revenue outlook. The professional-networking site unveiled plans to buy presentation service SlideShare through a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $119 million.

Stocks dropped lower after a Labor Department report showed the U.S. economy added fewer jobs than expected last month. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 115,000 in April, while economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires anticipated an increase of 168,000 jobs.

The unemployment rate ticked down a 10th of a percentage point to 8.1%, though some of the drop was due to people leaving the workforce. Should the trend continue, the Federal Reserve has said it could consider additional measures to stimulate the economy.

"It's really a continuation what we've seeing, and that's slow, grinding gains in jobs growth," said Paul Simon, chief investment officer of Tactical Allocation Group in Birmingham, Mich. "The implication of the jobs report is near-term weakness [in stocks], but there's a floor because Ben Bernanke could be there to flood the system with money. That's the psychology that's embedded in the market."

European stocks declined after a measure of private-sector business activity in the euro zone declined at faster than expected in April. The Stoxx Europe 600 fell 1.8%, as losses widened following the U.S. labor report.

Traders are looking ahead to weekend elections in Europe, where changes to the region's political dynamic could impact its response to ongoing sovereign-debt issues. In particular focus is France's presidential election. Polls show President Nicolas Sarkozy is trailing Socialist contender Francois Hollande.

"It comes down to the fact that the economy is not improving as some had thought, and earnings are winding down," said Rick Fier, director of equity trading at Conifer Securities. "Europe is likely to be at the forefront for the next couple of months, so it seems that a more defensive posture might be warranted."

Asian markets were mostly lower, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 both losing 0.8%. China's Shanghai Composite bucked the trend with a 0.5% gain after a purchasing managers' index rose in April from the previous month.

Crude-oil prices shed 4.4%, to $98.10 a barrel, while gold prices rose 0.5%, to $1,643 a troy ounce. The dollar fell against the euro and the yen. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to a three-month low, trading recently at 1.886%.

In corporate news, GeoEye rose 5.6% as it went public with its aims to acquire fellow satellite-imagery company DigitalGlobe, which climbed 20%, disclosing it has made a "friendly" offer to the company to acquire it in a $792.3 million cash-and-stock deal.

Estee Lauder slipped 5% after the company reported fiscal-third quarter adjusted earnings that topped estimates, but provided a fourth-quarter earnings outlook that was below expectations.

Synergy Pharmaceuticals slumped 21% after the developer of drugs to treat gastrointestinal disorders said it had priced a public offering of 10 million shares of common stock at $4.50 a share, which was below Thursday's closing price of $5.69.

-By Chris Dieterich, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2611; christopher.dieterich@dowjones.com

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