Stocks plunge after jobs growth disappoints

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Stocks down

(AP Photo)

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks opened sharply lower on Wall Street after U.S. employers added the fewest jobs in nine months, falling short of economists’ forecasts.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 144 points, or 1 percent, to 14,461 as of 9:39 a.m. EDT Friday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 18 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,543.

U.S. employers added 88,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department said Friday. That’s half the pace of the previous six months, when the economy added an average of 196,000 jobs a month. The drop raises concerns that the economy could slow after showing signs of strengthening over the winter.

The jobs report will dent investor confidence that the economy is poised for a sustained recovery. The stock market has surged this year, pushing the Dow and the S&P 500 to record levels, aided by optimism that the housing market is recovering and companies are starting to hire again.

All 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 fell, with the information technology group leading the declines. Cisco Systems fell 91 cents, or 4.4 percent, to $20.13. Oracle dropped 53 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $31.84.

In other trading the Nasdaq fell 47 points, or 1.5 percent, to 3,177.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, plunged from 1.76 to 1.70, its lowest level since December. The note’s yield has declined over the last month as demand for less risky assets has increased amid mounting evidence that growth in the U.S. economy is slowing.

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