Unemployment numbers push stocks lower

November 7, 2008 6:29:29 AM PST
Wall Street's resolve to rebound from a two-day selloff was shaken Friday by a worse-than-expected employment report that drove up the nation's 2008 tally of job losses to 1.2 million.

Stock futures gave up most of their early gains after the Labor Department said the nation's employers cut 240,000 jobs in October, hurtling the U.S. unemployment rate to a 14-year high of 6.5 percent. The report also said 284,000 jobs were lost in September - a much higher figure than the 159,000 originally reported.

The market expected employers to cut 200,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate to rise to 6.3 percent, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Thomson/IFR.

When people lose their jobs, they tend to pare back family budgets and fall behind on their debt - not a promising prospect for an economy suffering a simultaneous credit crisis and spending slowdown.

The jobs report wasn't the only bad news out there Friday - Ford Motor Co. said it lost $129 million in the third quarter after burning through $7.7 billion in cash, and said it is cutting 10 percent of its North American salaried work force. Analysts expect General Motors Corp.'s quarterly results to be abysmal as well; the auto industry has been one of the hardest hit by the financial crisis.

Dow Jones industrial futures rose 42, or 0.60 percent, to 8,752, after rising more than 100 in earlier trading and then slipping into negative territory. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures rose 4.40, or 0.49 percent, to 908.90, and Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 14.25, or 1.15 percent, to 1,254.75.

Barack Obama's election to the White House was preceded by a big rally, and then followed by a two-day loss of about 10 percent in the major indexes as economic concerns returned to the market. Thursday was Wall Street's second straight day of massive losses - that time set off by Cisco Systems Inc.'s warning about waning demand and retailers posting dismal sales figures for October.

President-elect Obama is meeting Friday with economic experts to discuss the first steps toward fixing the broken economy.

On Friday, the dollar fell against most other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

Light, sweet crude fell 5 cents to $60.72 a barrel in premarket trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The three-month Treasury bill's yield was at 0.33 percent, up modestly from 0.30 percent late Thursday. A low yield suggests high demand for safe assets.

Bank-to-bank lending rates fell again, though, suggesting that banks are more willing to lend to one another - a positive signal for the tight credit markets. The London interbank offered rate, or Libor, for three-month loans in dollars dropped for the 20th straight day by 0.10 percent to 2.29 percent, the lowest level since November 2004.

In Asian trading, Japan's Nikkei index fell 3.55 percent, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 3.29 percent. In afternoon trading in Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.07 percent, Germany's DAX index fell 0.89 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 0.82 percent.

On the Net:

New York Stock Exchange: http://www.nyse.com

Nasdaq Stock Market: http://www.nasdaq.com


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