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Stocks End One of the Worst Opening Trading Weeks Ever Down 6 Percent

U.S. stock markets concluded one of their worst opening weeks of all time with another selloff on Friday as energy price worries moved to the fore.
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U.S. stocks ended one of their worst opening weeks in history with another sharp decline on Friday, as concerns about sagging energy prices overwhelmed early optimism about stronger-than-expected U.S. jobs numbers and a stabilization of Chinese markets.

All three major indices ended the week with losses of nearly 6 percent or more -- one of their worst starts to a year in history. The Dow Jones industrial average notched its worst five-day start to a year since 1897, while the S&P 500’s was its worst on record since 1929, Reuters reported.

And it was the worst week of trading at any time of year since 2011, according to the Associated Press.

The Dow, which opened more than 100 points higher, retreated in late morning and see-sawed into the afternoon before closing down nearly 170 points, more than 1 percent of its total value. For the week, the Dow as off more than 1,000 points.

The Standard and Poor's 500 Index and Nasdaq Composite Index also were down about 1 percent for the day.

Oil prices, which closed down 11 cents, or 0.33 percent, at $33.16 a barrel, after erasing earlier gains, appeared to be the main culprit dragging the markets down. Pressured by persistent global oversupply and a bleak demand outlook, prices have now lost about 70 percent since mid-2014 and were down down 10 percent for the week.

Earlier, U.S. employment data showed a bumper 292,000 jobs were added in December, topping expectations of 200,000 by economists polled by Reuters, The unemployment rate held steady at a 7-1/2-year low of 5 percent even as more people joined workforce, a sign of confidence in the labor market.

The upbeat report suggested that a recent manufacturing-led slowdown in economic growth would be temporary.

Undercutting the employment report somewhat was Commerce Department data showing U.S. wholesale businesses trimmed their inventories 0.3 percent in November following a similar 0.3 percent drop in October. Sales plunged 1 percent, which was the biggest setback since January.

Economists are hoping that continued strong job gains will boost consumer spending and businesses will respond by restocking their empty shelves in coming months.

Before the jobs report, futures trading turned positive on some much-need positive news from China.

The Shanghai Composite closed 1.98 percent higher on Friday, one day after a 7 percent stock drop triggered a circuit breaker and forced Chinese markets to close early for the second time in a week.

The People's Bank of China said Friday it would further liberalize interest rates. The central bank also said it would make the yuan more international, keep the currency basically stable, further improve the currency formation mechanism and deepen reforms of the foreign exchange management system and financial institutions.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei finished 0.39 percent lower. In Europe, the pan European Stoxx 600 index was around 0.45 percent higher on Friday morning.