Stocks Open Modestly Lower

Wall Street opens with mild losses on news the U.S. lost more than 500,000 jobs in December.
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Stock futures in New York opened lower Friday as the latest jobless numbers fell in line with estimates, but the unemployment rate grew to 7.2%.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was losing 14 points at 8728, and the

S&P 500

off by 3 points at 907. The

Nasdaq

was down 8 points at 1609.

According to the Labor Department, the

U.S. lost 524,000 jobs in December

, right in line with estimates. The figure was considerably better than forecast by a report by ADP Employment Service earlier in the week, which estimated private-sector employment fell by 693,000 in December, suggesting the nonfarm payroll numbers will have declined much more severely than expected.

The unemployment rate, however, was worse than expected, rising to 7.2%.

Boston

Federal Reserve

President Eric Rosengren, in an address at the Massachusetts Mortgage Bankers Association, said, "It appears the economy contracted quite significantly in the final quarter of 2008 and may continue contracting over at least the first half of 2009. We are seeing businesses retrenching and unemployment rising.

"As a result, this recession looks to be longer and more severe than originally forecast. Still, there are indications that the second half of the year will show improvement," Rosengren said.

Wall Street is also awaiting data from the Commerce Department on November wholesale inventory levels, with expectations for an 8% decline in November, compared with a 1.1% decline a month prior.

Senate Democrats said late Thursday that they'd reached an agreement with

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

to support a bill that would allow bankruptcy judges to alter the

terms of mortgages

owed by consumers filing for bankruptcy, aiming to alleviate foreclosures for those consumers.

The private-equity arm of collapsed investment bank

Lehman Brothers

has reached an agreement to spin out into an independent firm, taking in a new investment from luxury-goods billionaire Johann Rupert, according to

The Wall Street Journal

.

Meanwhile, according to the

Journal

,

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

is wrapping up its search for a CEO. The

Journal

reports that final candidates include Carol Bartz, former CEO of

Autodesk

(ADSK) - Get Report

.

Retail numbers rolled in much lower than expected on Thursday, sending the major indices sharply lower, but stocks in New York pared losses after the president elect delivered a pitch for his economic recovery plan.

On Friday, the dollar declined against other major currencies. Oil prices fell 88 cents to $40.82 a barrel, while gold fell $4.80 at 849.70 an ounce.

Overseas, the FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt were rising Friday. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended with losses.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.