Saturday, 5 April 2008

US economy loses 80,000 jobs in March

US employment fell again in March. MarketWatch reports:

Nonfarm payrolls fell by an estimated 80,000 in March, the Labor Department said. It marked the largest decline seen since March 2003, underscoring how reluctant employers remain to committing to making new hires...

The nation's unemployment rate surged to 5.1% last month, the highest since September 2005...

Adding to the sense of weakness in employment, payrolls in January and February were revised lower by a cumulative 67,000.

Job losses thus have totaled 232,000 so far this year, an average of 77,000 lost jobs per month.

The government's separate household survey showed a decline in employment of 24,000 in March, and a 434,000 rise in unemployment. As a result, the unemployment rate rose.

The reaction in the stock market by the end of the day was muted, attesting to the relatively buoyant mood among investors recently. Again from MarketWatch:

After volatile moves in a 100-point trading range, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 16.61 points to 12,609.42, giving it a weekly gain of 3.2%...

The S&P 500 gained 1.09 points, to 1,370.40, giving it a 4.2% rise from where it stood one week ago...

The Nasdaq Composite climbed 7.68 points to 2,370.98, up 4.9% from where the tech-heavy index stood at Friday's close one week ago.

The move in Treasuries was less ambiguous. From Bloomberg:

Treasuries rose, with 10-year notes gaining the most in two weeks, after a government report showed the economy lost more jobs last month than forecast and wages grew at the slowest pace in almost two years...

The yield on the benchmark 10-year note fell 13 basis points, or 0.13 percentage point, to 3.47 percent at 5:15 p.m. in New York, according to bond broker Cantor Fitzgerald LP...

The rally in longer-term debt pushed the yields on 10-year notes to within 164 basis points of two-year securities, which fell 7 basis points to 1.81 percent. The so-called yield curve is the narrowest since Feb. 6...

Traders now see a 40 percent chance the Federal Reserve will lower its target rate for overnight lending between banks a half-percentage point to 1.75 percent at their next scheduled meeting on April 30, up from 20 percent yesterday. The rest of the bets were on a quarter-point reduction, according to interest-rate futures on the Chicago Board of Trade...

Bonds still posted a weekly loss...

Notes maturing in two years rose 17 basis points this week, the most since the five days ended Dec. 14. Ten-year note yields rose 2 basis points.

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