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Jobs report, Intel dent stocks

Stocks slid Friday, after the November employment report revealed disappointing growth in new jobs. Intel led tech shares lower after reporting a large write-down.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Stocks retreated Friday, after a report on November employment revealed disappointing job growth and Intel issued a forecast that fell short of expectations. The market’s major indexes closed the week mixed, with the Nasdaq composite index lower after briefly touching the 2,000 level on Wednesday.

While the government announced the creation of 57,000 new jobs last month, that figure was well off the 150,000 Wall Street expected. And Intel, while predicting revenue growth, wasn’t as upbeat as investors had hoped.

“There’s significant anticipation for recovery in technology, and it’s already an expensive sector of the market,” said Stuart Freeman, chief equity strategist for A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed the day down 68.14 points, or 0.7 percent, at 9,862.68, wiping out Thursday’s 57-point gain. Broader stock indicators also fell, led by the technology group.

The tech-rich Nasdaq composite index was down 30.98 points, or 1.6 percent, at 1,937.82 at the close, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 8.22 points, or 0.8 percent, at 1,061.50. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was off 5.14 points, or 0.9 percent, at 539.01.

The Labor Department reported that the nation’s unemployment rate slipped to 5.9 percent in November, the lowest level in eight months. But investors focused on a negative part of the report, job growth.

Poor job creation has been a consistent concern in recent weeks even as other signs of a strong recovery have emerged. Economists worry that U.S. companies, in a bid to keep operating costs low, are producing more overseas where salaries are lower rather than hiring in the states. Without growth in jobs and salaries here, there are fears that consumer spending may sputter, undermining the recovery.

The downbeat reading on employment blunted the optimism that led the Dow to its highest level in 18 months on Thursday. For the week, the three main gauges finished mixed, with the Dow up 0.8 percent, the Nasdaq down 1.1 percent, and the S&P 500 up 0.3 percent.

“We need 150,000 jobs per month just to maintain unemployment at the current level and to keep up with the population entering the work force, and we haven’t seen that amount of growth in more than two and a half years,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

Notably, the employment report showed that job losses at U.S. factories continued for the 39th consecutive month in November, with payrolls falling by 17,000. But the pace has slowed, and in a sign of possibly better days ahead for manufacturing, the Commerce Department said Friday that new orders to U.S. factories rose by 2.2 percent in October, the strongest increase in 15 months and the fifth in the past six months.

Intel warned investors late Thursday it would take a $600 million charge after one of its wireless businesses failed to meet expectations. Intel also edged up the bottom range of its revenue forecasts, but some investors had been hoping for a more bullish forecast. The company’s shares fell $1.44 to $32.10.

“In order for those stocks to continue to be the driver for this market, analysts must continue to be surprised on the upside by the companies,” Freeman said of the tech sector.

Among the Dow’s other tech components, International Business Machines Corp. was down 78 cents at $90.64, and Hewlett-Packard Co. was down 49 cents at $22.11. Elsewhere in the Dow, Boeing Co. was down $1.11 at $38.00 and Alcoa Inc. was down 47 cents at $34.98.

Going against the trend was Caterpillar Inc., up $1.56 at $76.50 following an upgrade from Citigroup Smith Barney.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by a 3-to-2 ratio on the New York Stock Exchange.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 0.5 percent, Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.3 percent, and France’s CAC-40 fell 1.1 percent, and Germany’s DAX index was down 0.9 percent.