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Jobs Data Knock Stocks

The major indices open with losses as investors weigh new labor, earnings and retail sales data.

Updated from 9:03 a.m. EDT

Stocks in the U.S. skidded at the open Thursday, as traders mulled economic reports that indicated a tough jobs market.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

was off 111 points at 11,421.74, and the

S&P 500

lost 8 points to 1267. The


dipped 19 points to 2314.

On Wednesday, bulls failed to gain traction despite declines in the price of crude oil. Also, the

Federal Reserve's

beige book indicated the economy would remain slow even as inflation fears subsided.

The new day's docket included a hefty serving of additional economic information. Automatic Data Processing's August employment figures showed private payrolls down 33,000, a slightly wider decline than estimates. The Department of Labor's jobless claims for the week ended Aug. 30 came in at 444,000, higher than expectations for 420,000 new claims.

The Labor Department's second-quarter productivity increased at an annual rate of 4.3%, ahead of estimates of 3.5% and up from 2.2% in the first quarter. Labor costs, meanwhile, declined at an annualized rate of 0.5%. Due out later are the Institute for Supply Management's nonmanufacturing survey and weekly oil inventories from the Energy Information Administration.

Following the close of their respective rate meetings, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank both announced they would leave their key interest rates unchanged.

In company news, a slew of retailers reported same-store sales for August.


(WMT) - Get Free Report

showed improved sales that beat estimates, while specialty retailers such as

Wet Seal




(GPS) - Get Free Report




reported declines in same-store sales.



reported that

Merrill Lynch


faces difficulties as it tries to sell parts of its loan portfolio to Korea Asset Management Corp.

Also dealing with hard-to-value assets, insurance giant


(AIG) - Get Free Report

is considering forming a new company to get rid of its mortgage-related securities, according to a report in

The New York Post



(BA) - Get Free Report

averted a strike by its largest union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The union had voted to strike after negotiations for a new three-year contract failed, but federal mediators brokered a 48-hour postponement of the walkout.

As to earnings, after the close Wednesday tax-services provider

H&R Block

(HRB) - Get Free Report

announced a narrowed quarterly loss. Homebuilder


(HOV) - Get Free Report

reported a loss that was wider than a year ago.

Fellow construction firm

Toll Brothers

(TOL) - Get Free Report

likewise had bad news, swinging to a third-quarter loss on falling revenue stemming from the ongoing housing crisis.

Looking at commodities, crude oil was up 19 cents at $109.54 a barrel, and gold was gaining $6.10 at $814.30 an ounce.

Longer-dated U.S. Treasuries were edging higher. The 10-year was up 6/32, yielding 3.67%, and the 30-year was adding 8/32 to yield 4.3%. The dollar was gaining on the euro but slipping against the pound and yen.

Major global exchanges, with the exception of the FTSE in London, were mostly trading lower.