Markets & Finance

Stocks End Mixed After Tepid Jobs Data


January payrolls rose less than expected, from upwardly revised December and November numbers. Also in focus: Chevron, Amazon earnings

Stocks finished mixed Friday, as the Dow slipped following a second straight all-time closing high. Investors were digesting somewhat conflicting economic reports, another batch of earnings news, and rising oil prices.

On Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 20.19 points, or 0.16%, to 12,653.49, below Thursday's closing record. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.45 points, or 0.17%, to 1,448.39. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite added 7.5 points, or 0.3%, to 2,475.88.

NYSE breadth was positive, with 19 issues rising for every 14 declining. Nasdaq breadth was 16-14 positive.

In economic news Friday, U.S. nonfarm payrolls rose 111,000 in January, softer than expected, from an upwardly revised 206,000 in December. The unemployment rate rose to 4.6% from 4.5%. Big upward revisions for December and November make the modest January increase look stronger, says Action Economics.

The jobs report shouldn't shift the outlook for the economy or interest rates, some analysts say. "It confirms right now that the Fed's been doing a good job balancing the risks of growth and inflation," says Andy Richman, fixed income strategist for SunTrust's Personal Asset Management group. "I don't think this changes anything the Fed would say or do. They're going to wait and see."

U.S. consumer sentiment eased to 96.9, below expectations, for the final January reading of the University of Michigan's index, following a big jump to 98.0 for the preliminary print. That's still up from December's 91.7 reading.

In addition, U.S. factory orders rose 2.4% in December, following an upwardly revised 1.2% increase in November.

Looking ahead, Monday's economic docket holds the release of the Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing "business activity" index. The index is seen slipping to 55.5 from December's revised level of 56.7, says Action Economics.

Among Friday's stocks in the news, Chevron (CVX) was modestly lower after the oil giant reported a 9% drop in earnings for the fourth quarter, still enough for a third consecutive year of record earnings.

Amazon (AMZN) was lower after the Internet retailer said profit margins fell as the company lowered shipping fees and cut prices to sell more digital cameras and Mattel's (MAT) Barbie dolls.

Shares of Electronic Arts (ERTS) gained as the video game publisher beat Wall Street targets despite a posting a 38% decline for its fiscal third quarter.

Companies set to announce quarterly results next week include Cisco (CSCO), Disney (DIS), Pepsi (PEP), and Qwest (Q).

Outside of earnings, Gap (GPS) named Banana Republic executive Marka Hansen to replace Cynthia Harriss as head of its Gap North America operations.

In the energy markets, March West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures rose $1.72 to $59.02 a barrel amid forecasts for persistent colder weather in the Northeast and a potential worker strike in Nigeria.

European markets finished higher. The FTSE-100 index in London rose 28.7 points, or 0.46%, to 6,310.9. Germany's DAX index added 34.48 points, or 0.5%, to 6,885.76. In Paris, the CAC 40 index was up 15.05 points, or 0.27%, to 5,677.3.

Asian markets ended higher. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index gained 27.61 points, or 0.16%, to 17,547.11. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index advanced 133.52 points, or 0.65%, to 20,563.68. Korea's Kospi index rallied 30.24 points, or 2.19%, to 1,413.14.

Treasury Market

Treasury yields drifted modestly lower, but recovered from early lows, following the smaller-than-expected increase in January payrolls, dip in consumer sentiment, and gain in factory orders. The 10-year note edged up in price to 98-14/32 for a yield of 4.83%, while the 30-year bond nudged higher to 93-14/32 for a yield of 4.93%. "Payrolls Friday was a relatively muted affair," says Action Economics.

Hogan is a reporter for BusinessWeek.com in New York.

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