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Stocks slump after murky jobs report as markets swing

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Wall Street closed out a bumpy week with more losses on Friday following a mixed reading on U.S. jobs markets that investors said was tough to parse
A week of volatile swings on Wall Street ended Friday with more losses for stocks, as a mixed batch of U.S. job market data triggered another bout of dizzying trading. The S&P 500 closed 0.8 percent lower after erasing a 0.7 percent gain in the early going. The benchmark index was coming off a jolting stretch where it swerved by at least 1.2 percent in five straight days, pounded by uncertainty about how badly the newest coronavirus variant will hit the economy and about when the Federal Reserve will halt its immense support for financial markets. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.2 percent and the Nasdaq composite lost 1.9 percent. The Russell 2000 index of company stocks slumped 2.1 percent. All the indexes also posted a weekly loss. Treasury yields fell, rose and then fell again as investors struggled to square what the jobs report means the Federal Reserve will do on interest rates. The erratic movements fit right in with a week where the S&P 500 swung from a 1.9 percent gain to a 1.2 percent loss in one day. “We got some mixed messages on the data” from the jobs report, “and that can make for some messy markets,” said Brian Jacobsen, senior investment strategist at Allspring Global Investments. The report, which is usually the most anticipated economic data by Wall Street each month, showed employers added only 210,000 jobs last month. It was a disappointing result when economists were expecting much stronger hiring of 530,000, and it raised worries the economy may stagnate while inflation remains high. That’s a worse-case scenario called “stagflation” by economists, and the omicron variant’s arrival makes its likelihood more uncertain. But other areas of the jobs report showed better strength. More people are coming back to the workforce, and the unemployment rate improved to 4.2 percent from 4.6 percent. Those encouraging numbers helped Treasury yields briefly climb during the morning.

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