The broad indexes ended mixed, despite a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on that U.S. nonfarm payrolls grew by 146,000 during November, greatly exceeding the consensus expectation among economists of a 93,000 rise in employment, according to a Reuters survey.
The U.S. unemployment rate in November declined to 7.7%, which was its lowest level since December 2008. Economists had expected the unemployment rate to stay at 7.9%.
Private service-providing industries saw their payrolls grow by 169,000 during November, mostly in trade, transportation and utilities, with 69,000 added positions, while 52,600 retail positions were added. There was a net loss of 12,300 food manufacturing jobs, which was not surprising, following the closing of Hostess, which led to the loss of 18,000 jobs.One of the weaker categories for employment growth was in the "financial activities" category, which reflected the continuing efforts by large banks to trim their payrolls and cut expenses. The fiscal cliff continues to loom large in investors' minds, partly overshadowing the good news on the employment front. Assuming that President Obama and the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives are unable to come up with a new compromise to avert the mandated expiration of tax cuts enacted when George W. Bush was president, along with concurrent federal spending cuts, Jim Cramer wrote that "the layoffs that the cliff necessitates will make the creation of 100,000 jobs pretty meaningless." Apple (AAPL - Get Report) resumed its slide on Friday, declining 3% to close at $533.25. The shares have dropped 24% since their closing high of $702.10 on Sept. 19. Apple's shares don't appear overly priced, at 11 times the consensus fiscal 2013 earnings estimate of $49.26, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. Then again, the consensus EPS estimate for the fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 31 is $13.32 (including options expenses), which indicates a "holiday quarter" decline from $13.87 from a year earlier. That's quite a change in momentum for Apple, which has seen very strong year-over-year earnings growth during its first fiscal quarter for the past four years.