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Stocks open mixed as job losses rise

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[April 03, 2009]  NEW YORK (AP) -- Wall Street is opening mixed on relief that an ugly employment report wasn't even worse.

The moderate moves follow a strong run in stocks so some giveback isn't surprising.

Word that the nation's unemployment rate jumped to 8.5 percent in March from 8.1 percent in February isn't welcome news for a stock market that has hung a 20 percent surge in the last month on signs the economy is slowing its slide. But the numbers aren't as bad as some had feared.

In the first minutes of trading, the Dow is up 9, or 0.1 percent, at 7,987. The Standard & Poor's 500 index is down 1 at 834. The Nasdaq composite index is up 3 at 1,605.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Wall Street headed for a mixed open Friday as traders showed some relief that an ugly employment report wasn't worse.

The moderate moves in stock futures also comes after a strong run in stocks so some giveback wouldn't be surprising for investors.

The Labor Department's report Friday that the nation's unemployment rate jumped to 8.5 percent in March wasn't good news for a stock market that has hung a 20 percent surge in the last month on incremental signs that the economy could be patching some of its holes.

Word that employers slashed a net total of 663,000 jobs last month was worse than the 654,000 economists expected. Still, some traders had feared job losses would come in above 700,000.

The report is often regarded on Wall Street as the most important piece of economic news each month. There is particular focus on jobs now that the recession has stretched into the longest since World War II.

The monthly numbers aren't as timely as the weekly employment snapshots that the government issues but traders look to the monthly reading as a key measure of the job market. Traders don't want to see big expansions of the number of people out of work because it likely would crimp the economy's ability to recover.

Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity so a rise in unemployment could corporate profits.

The stock market has been surging as traders find small but encouraging signs that the economy could be improving or at least slowing its descent. The Dow Jones industrial average is up 20.4 percent since March 9, its best four-week run since 1933.

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Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 10, or 0.1 percent, to 7,948. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures rose 3.30, or 0.4 percent, to 838.80. Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 8.50, or 0.7 percent, to 1,310.00.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq was poised to open higher after BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. posted a better-than-expected jump in fourth-quarter earnings after the closing bell Thursday.

Selling wouldn't be unexpected Friday after the Dow surged 2.8 percent on Thursday and spent much of the day above the 8,000 mark for the first time since February. Traders have been emboldened by better-than-expected figures on housing and manufacturing.

The stock market could still recover as unemployment remains high. Wall Street will just want some signs that the prospects for the labor market aren't getting far worse. In downturns during the past 60 years, the S&P 500 index has hit bottom an average of four months before a recession ended and about nine months before unemployment hit its peak.

In other markets early Friday, bond prices fell. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 2.80 percent from 2.76 percent late Thursday. The yield on the three-month T-bill, considered one of the safest investments, rose to 0.21 percent from 0.20 percent.


The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.3 percent. In afternoon trading, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.2 percent, Germany's DAX index rose 1 percent, and France's CAC-40 slipped 0.2 percent.

[Associated Press; By TIM PARADIS]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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