Stocks are sharply lower today, setting up for the biggest weekly drop of the year for the Standard & Poor's 500 index, after data showed U.S. employers last month added fewer than half the number of new workers than economists were expecting. The weak jobs report overshadowed a surprise drop in the nation's trade deficit as crude oil imports fell to their lowest level since March 1996. Most industry sectors in the S&P 500 are underwater, with the steepest slide for shares of technology and consumer discretionary companies. Utility stocks are narrowly higher in mid-day trade.
Market sentiment turned solidly lower after the Labor Department this morning reported payrolls grew by 88,000 workers during March, the smallest rise in nine months and trailing expert forecasts for a figure around 190,000 new jobs. Underlying data was slightly more positive, showing a revised 268,000 gain in February, along with a drop in the national unemployment rate by 0.1% to 7.6%.
Traders appear to have largely set aside another report by the Commerce Department showing the U.S. trade gap narrowed to $43.0 billion during February, down from an unrevised $44.5 billion in January. The consensus estimate of Wall Street analysts surveyed by Reuters before the report was for the trade gap to widen slightly to $44.6 billion. The lower-than-expected deficit also could soon prompt analysts to raise their estimates of Q1 U.S. economic growth.
Commodities are mixed today, with crude oil for May delivery falling 88 cents to $92.38 per barrel. May natural gas is up 14 cents to $4.09 per 1 million BTU. April gold is up $13.50 to $1,565.30 per ounce while May silver is ahead 32 cents to $27.09 per ounce. May copper is down a penny at $3.34 per pound.
Among energy ETFs , the US Oil Fund is down 28 cents to $33.11 and the US Natural Gas Fund is up 74 cents to $22.23. Among precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF is down 10 cents to $35.12 and the SPDR Gold Shares ETF is up $1.31 to $151.60. The iShares Silver Trust is up 23 cents to $26.22.
Here's where the U.S. markets stood at mid-day:
NYSE Composite Index down 70.04 (-0.78%) to 8,957.80
Dow Jones Industrial Average down 114.33 (-0.78%) to 14,491.78
S&P 500 down 14.67 (-0.94%) to 1,545.31
Nasdaq Composite Index down 35.63 (-1.10%) to 3,189.35
Nikkei 225 Index up 1.58%
Hang Seng Index down 2.73%
Shanghai China Composite Index down 0.11%
FTSE 100 Index down 1.49%
NYSE SECTOR INDICES
NYSE Energy Sector Index down 0.33%
NYSE Financial Sector Index down 0.95%
NYSE Healthcare Sector Index down 0.71%
(+) XIDE, (+13.9%) Hires Lazard Ltd to advise it on financing alternatives to maximize the value of the company for all stakeholders.
(+) NIHD, (+16.5%) Selling its stake in Nextel del Peru SA for about $400 million.
(+) ACUR, (+7.8%) Awarded U.S. patent for its Aversion technology, a polymer matrix designe3 to reduce potential abuse of opiod and other drugs.
(-) RIGL, (-36.5%, hit 52 week lows) Top-line results from Phase III testing of its fostamatinib drug candidate fail to produce statistically significant difference after 24 weeks in an X-ray endpoint known as modified Total Sharp Score in patients with rheumatoid arthritis over patients receiving a placebo.
(-) FFIV, (-17.6%, also hit 52 week lows) Sees Q2 revenue around $350.2 mln, trailing the analyst consensus by $28.8 mln. EPS is seen in a range of $1.06 to $1.07, also lagging the Street view by at least $0.16 per share. Rivals Juniper Networks ( JNPR ) and Cisco Systems ( CSCO ) also are lower today.
(-) ANCX, (-16.6%) Closing its Mortgage Production unit in Denver, with the branch soon no longer taking loan applications and terminating all activities by April 30.
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