Banks and other financial companies led a modest decline in U.S. stocks Friday after a report indicating that hiring slowed sharply in May put investors in a selling mood.
The market slide snapped a two-day winning streak and sent bond prices surging as investors sought safety in U.S. government-backed debt. The dollar also fell sharply against several major currencies.
The downbeat jobs data appeared to convince traders that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates low longer than previously expected. It also stirred concerns that the economy is slowing.
“What we don’t want to see is this number as a beginning of a series of weaker data,” said Quincy Krosby, a market strategist at Prudential Financial. “That’s going to affect the market.”
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 31.50 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 17,807.06. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 6.13 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 2,099.13. The Nasdaq composite index gave up 28.85 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 4,942.52.
The Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy added only 38,000 jobs in May, the lowest amount in five years. The unemployment rate fell to 4.7 per cent from 5 per cent, but mainly because about half a million unemployed people stopped looking for work.
Separate reports out Friday also showed a mixed snapshot of the economy. The Institute of Supply Management said U.S. services firms grew in May at the slowest pace in more than two years, while the Commerce Department said orders to U.S. factories rose in April by the largest amount in six months.
The weak hiring data fueled speculation that the Fed will hold off on raising its key interest rate this summer, something Wall Street was anticipating could happen as soon as July. That weighed on banks and financial services companies, as low interest rates make it harder for banks to make money from loans.
ETrade Financial slumped $1.44, or 5.1 per cent, to $26.69, while Charles Schwab lost $1.62, or 5.3 per cent, to $29.22. Bank of America fell 52 cents, or 3.5 per cent, to $14.42. Citigroup slid $1.58, or 3.4 per cent, to $45.39.
All told, financials sector companies posted the biggest drop in the in the S&P 500, sliding 1.4 per cent. It’s down 1.7 per cent this year and is the only one of the 10 sectors in the index that’s negative for 2016.
The prospect of interest rates holding steady made U.S. bonds more attractive, sending their prices sharply higher. That demand spike, in turn, pushed the yield on the 10-year Treasury note down 1.70 per cent from 1.80 late Thursday.
“What you’re seeing today is bonds are rallying because the thought that we’re going to see higher rates in the short term has come off the table a bit,” said J.J. Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade. “It’s about pure yield.”
The dollar also fell against other major currencies, falling to 106.68 yen from 108.91 the day before. The euro jumped to $1.1347 from $1.1148.
Traders also piled money into precious and industrial metals. Gold rose $30.30, or 2.5 per cent, to $1,242.90 an ounce, while silver gained 34 cents, or 2.1 per cent, to $16.37 an ounce. Copper added 4 cents, or 2.1 per cent, to $2.11 a pound.
The rally in metals helped polish shares in some mining companies. Newmont Mining jumped $3.05, or 9.4 per cent, to $35.40, while Freeport-McMoRan added 45 cents, or 4.2 per cent, to $11.11.
Utilities companies, which had been down of late as investors bet on the Fed raising rates sooner, rather than later, surged Friday. The sector was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, climbing 1.7 per cent. It’s now up 15 per cent this year.
Investors also bid up shares in several companies reporting earnings or sales data.
Broadcom climbed 4.9 per cent after the communications chip maker posted a bigger-than-expected profit in its fiscal second quarter. The stock climbed $7.65 to $162.56.
Ambarella jumped 9.4 per cent after the video compression chip maker’s profit and revenue topped Wall Street’s expectations. The stock rose $3.99 to $46.47.
Gap rose 4.1 per cent after the clothing chain operator reported late Wednesday that sales at established stores declined 6 per cent in May, better than the 7 per cent drop forecast by financial analysts. The stock added 76 cents to $19.09.
Traders were not as welcoming to Zumiez. The clothing retailer fell 4.2 per cent after sales at older stores slumped in its fiscal first quarter. The stock shed 64 cents to $14.42.
Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 55 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to close at $48.62 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, slid 40 cents, or 0.8 per cent, to close at $49.64 a barrel in London.
In other energy futures trading, natural gas dropped 1 cent to close at $2.398 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline slid 3 cents, or 1.7 per cent, to close at $1.61 a gallon. Heating oil shed 2 cents, or 1.4 per cent, to close at $1.49 a gallon.
In Europe, major stock indexes mostly fell. Germany’s DAX fell 1 per cent, while France’s CAC 40 lost 1 per cent. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.4 per cent.
Earlier in Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.5 per cent, while South Korea’s Kospi inched up 0.04 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.4 per cent. The S&P/ASX 200 of Australia jumped 0.8 per cent.