Stock markets lose more ground amid relatively strong U.S. jobs data

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TORONTO – North American stock markets racked up losses for a second day Friday, despite a relatively strong U.S. employment report.

The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 115.48 points to 15,215.26 after the U.S. Labor Department said the American economy added 209,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate ticked up 0.1 of a point to 6.2 per cent. Generally, economists had looked for the U.S. economy to add 225,000 jobs with unemployment rate holding steady.

The Canadian dollar declined 0.19 of a cent to 91.52 cents US.

New York’s Dow Jones industrials fell 69.93 points to 16,493.37, the Nasdaq gave back 17.13 points to 4,352.64 while the S&P 500 index lost 5.52 points 1,925.15.

Stock markets tumbled Thursday in their biggest one-day slide since early February, but analysts were hard-pressed to identify a single reason for the drop.

The TSX fell 240 points or 1.55 per cent this week, leaving the index still up 11.8 per cent year to date. However, the Dow industrials dropped 467 points or 2.75 per cent this week, wiping out all gains year-to-date.

There were scattered earnings disappointments, but analysts have been generally pleased with the second-quarter earnings over the last couple of weeks.

In the background are worries that strong U.S. economic growth could result in the Federal Reserve hiking rates earlier than expected.

But there are also concerns about the ripple effects from Argentina again defaulting on its debt, and tensions between the West and Russia over that country’s support of Ukrainian rebels blamed for shooting down an airliner last month.

On top of it all, cracks in stock markets are appearing at a time when indexes are close to all time highs and the bull market has run practically non-stop for over five years.

“So, my view is that the market was looking for any excuse to sell, really,” said John Stephenson, president and CEO at Stephenson and Co. Capital Management.

“You have tremendous amounts of cash sitting on the sidelines, at least in the retail population, and people are just bloody well nervous that they’re going to lose their shirt, especially when they look at how far the market has come,” Stephenson said.

The financial sector was a major source of weakness, down 1.1 per cent after Portugal’s second-biggest lender posted a record US$4.68 billion loss and said it needed an increase in capital.

The energy sector was down 1.6 per cent as September crude lost 92 cents to US$97.26.

The base metals sector declined one per cent with September copper down one cent to US$3.23 a pound.

The TSX found support from a rise of about 1.4 per cent in the gold sector as investors looking for safety pushed December bullion up $12 to US$1,294.80 an ounce.

In earnings news Friday, pipeline company Enbridge (TSX:ENB) reported adjusted earnings rose to $328 million or 40 cents per share from $306 million, or 38 cents, a year earlier — a penny better than expected. Its shares were up 45 cents to $53.90.

Regional telecom company Bell Aliant (TSX:BA) reported a second-quarter profit of $72 million, or 32 cents per share, compared with $66 million, or 29 cents per share, a year ago. Revenues were down at $683 million from $692 million year-over-year. BCE Inc., which already owns 44 per cent of Bell Aliant, recently announced it’s seeking to take full ownership of the company through a $3.95-billion deal. Bell Aliant shares gained four cents to $30.94.

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