A disappointing report on the jobs market dampened investor confidence, dragging the major indices into negative territory. The S&P 500 logged its worst weekly decline of the year, following a series of weaker-than-expected numbers from the jobs market. The government jobs report showed that U.S companies are hiring at the slowest pace in nine months. Back-to-back dismal jobs reports have sparked concerns about the health of the economy. However, the energy and utilities sectors still managed a green finish on the S&P 500. Technology stocks were the biggest losers.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) lost 0.3% to close the day at 14,565.25. The S&P 500 declined 0.4% to finish Friday’s trading session at 1,553.28. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.7% to end at 3,203.86. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) inched up 0.2% to settle at 13.92. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 6.4 billion shares, lower than 2012’s daily average of 6.45 billion shares. Declining stocks outnumbered the advancers. For the 45% that advanced, 52% declined.
Benchmarks began Friday’s trading session in a bearish mood and the Dow Jones dropped as much as 171 points in the early part of the trading session. But stocks slowly trimmed losses in the later part of the trading session. A series of disappointing report on the jobs front had dragged benchmarks lower in the previous week. The S&P 500 declined 1%, the Dow Jones dropped 0.1% and the Nasdaq lost 2% over the week. Investors are also concerned about the earnings season which will get underway this week.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, non-farm payroll employment increased 88,000 in the month of March. This was well below the consensus estimate of 198,000. In contrast, U.S. companies had added 268,000 jobs in February. Employment edged up in professional and business services and in health care but declined in retail trade. Professional and business services added 51,000 jobs, health care accounted for 23,000 more jobs whereas employment in construction edged up 23,000. The report revealed employment increased at its slowest pace in nine months. However, unemployment increased to 7.6% from February’s figure of 7.7%. This was primarily a result of people withdrawing from the jobs market.
The earnings season will get underway from this week. Alcoa Inc (NYSE:AA) will be the first Dow company to kick off the earning season. Alcoa is scheduled to report its first-quarter financial report after the close on Monday. According to S&P Capital IQ, analysts believe that profits of S&P 500 companies will increase by 0.6% in the first-quarter on a year-over-year basis. Meanwhile, consumer credit increased in February. Revolving credit increased 0.75% annually whereas non-revolving surged 11%.
The utilities sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups and the Utilities SPDR (XLU) gained 0.4%. Stocks such as Duke Energy Corp (NYSE:DUK), Dominion Resources, Inc. (NYSE:D), NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE), Exelon Corporation (NYSE:EXC) and El Paso Electric Company (NYSE:EE) rose 0.4%, 0.2%, 0.4%, 1.2% and 0.8%, respectively.
The technology sector had a bad day and the Technology SPDR (XLK) lost 0.8%. Stocks such as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) slipped 1.1%, 1.5%, 0.9%, 1.5% and 0.9%, respectively.