U.S. stocks pared some losses but ended Friday’s session lower as market participants digested much weaker-than-expected payroll gains in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ February jobs report.
The Dow posted a second consecutive week of losses, declining about 2.2% for the week. The S&P 500 was down 2.3% for the week, while the Nasdaq fell about 2.5%. Each of the three major indices fell during the past five sessions.
The U.S. economy added a sharply lower-than-expected 20,000 non-farm payrolls in February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. Consensus expectations called for 180,000 positions to be added for the month, according to Bloomberg data. February’s headline reading for new payrolls was the weakest in 17 months.
The report comes as readings for some other sectors have softened, particularly in manufacturing. The latest jobs report showed that manufacturing employment rose by just 4,000 positions in February, below expectations of 12,000. Within the goods producing industries – of which manufacturing is one component – new payrolls fell by 32,000.
While the BLS’s Establishment Survey comprising non-farm payrolls disappointed, data from the Household Survey came in stronger. The unemployment rate fell to 3.8% in February from 4% in January, and average hourly earnings increased a better-than-expected 3.4% year-over-year.
"All of this shows the Federal Reserve can continue to wait before raising interest rates, if at all this year,” Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate.com, wrote in an email. “With a pause in solid payrolls growth and no indication of burgeoning, broad-based inflation, the central bank will remain patient to gather more evidence."
Later Friday evening, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell delivers a speech discussing monetary policy normalization at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research in California.
Meanwhile, other economies overseas have shown more signs of weakness. China customs data on Friday showed that February exports plummeted 20.7% – the largest drop in three years – whereas economists had anticipated just a 4.8% decline. The country’s trade balance was a weaker-than-expected $4.12 billion in February, below expectations for $26.38 billion, according to Reuters data. The readings come as the Chinese government earlier this week announced a plan to cut the country’s value-added tax for manufacturers in a move to help stimulate the trade war-battered economy.
Sluggishness in eurozone economies has also spooked investors. The ECB’s decision Thursday to slash eurozone GDP forecasts, hold key interest rates at least through 2019 and introduce a cheap long-term loans program for European banks were seen as signals of ongoing weakness in the region’s economies.
“We remain more dovish than investors about the outlook for interest rates in the euro-zone,” Hubert de Barochez, markets economist for Capital Economics, wrote in a note Friday. “But we still think that ‘risky’ assets there will perform badly this year, as slowing global growth takes its toll.”
Signs of the region’s economic slowdown have continued to trickle in. On Friday, German manufacturing orders – a key economic signal in the industrials-driven country – declined 2.5% month-over-month in January, below forecasts for a 0.5% increase.
Elsewhere, on Saturday, the longest bull market on record in the U.S. turns 10 years old. The S&P 500 has returned an annualized 17.68% total return since March 9, 2009, according to Howard Silverblatt of S&P Dow Jones Indices. On a stock basis, the S&P 500 has gained $17.536 trillion – not including the $3.3 trillion in dividends over this decade-long period. Between March 9, 2009, and market close Wednesday, the S&P 500 has surged 310% to 2,771.45 from 676.53.
Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck
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