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Stock finished lower Friday after a disappointing February jobs report that capped a week of losses for the markets. Investors remain concerned about a global economic slowdown following a string of downbeat news.
The Dow Jones Industrial average slipped 23 points, or 0.09 percent, to end at 25,450 on Friday. Its five-day decline this week marked its longest losing streak since June.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index declined 6 points, or 0.21 percent, to close at 2,743, ending its worst week of the year. The tech-heavy Nasdaq finished down 0.18 percent at 7,408.
Market watchers got a jolt Friday morning when the Labor Department reported that employers added just 20,000 jobs in February. That was far below the 180,000 Bloomberg consensus and marked the fewest gains since September 2017 when major hurricanes hurt hiring.
Experts blamed the harsh weather and the lingering effects of the federal shutdown for the discouraging figure.
Mild weather in January helped to boost gains in that month, while above-average snowfall when the Labor Department conducted its survey in February was predicted to cut total hiring estimates by 40,000, according to Goldman Sachs.
The unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent from 4 percent in February, according to the government, as federal workers who identified as unemployed or on temporary leave in January returned to work.
The report offered a handful of silver linings. Job gains for December and January were revised up by a total 12,000, while average hourly earnings posted a 3.4-percent annual gain, the highest since April 2009.
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Still, headline hiring number reinforced what investors have been fearing all weak: softness in the economy.
“But the overall picture is that the economy is slowing and that’s why the market is taking it so negatively,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Adding to worries
The markets were poised for a lower open even before the jobs report came in. A report from The New York Times on Thursday revealed that a broad trade agreement between the U.S. and China is still missing key details, suggesting a final deal is still a ways off.
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Other reports this week had revived fears of a weakening global economy.
Earlier this week, the European Central Bank reduced its estimates for economic expansion in the eurozone and decided to inject more stimulus. China’s exports dropped by 20.7 percent year over year in February, far more than the estimated 4.8-percent decline.
“We saw the ECB come out more dovish than it had been, which was a surprise,” said Zaccarelli. “Since it made such an about-face really underscores the weakness there.”
John Bogle, who founded the Vanguard Group in 1974 and later was dubbed the “father of index investing,” has died at 89.
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