U.S. and global stock indexes sank for a second day Wednesday, following a dismal report on job creation that gave investors concern over the state of the economy. The data followed a round of economic news out of China and Europe a day earlier that also suggested sluggish growth.
AT THE CLOSE ON WALL STREET: The Dow Jones industrial average was down 99.7 points, about 0.6 percent, at 17,651.3. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 12.3 points, about 0.6 percent, to 2,051.1, and the Nasdaq composite gave up 37.6 points, about 0.8 percent, to 4,725.6.
CRUDE ENERGY: As markets closed, benchmark U.S. crude oil gained 24 cents to $43.89 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude, used to price international oils, was down 21 cents at $44.76 a barrel.
JOB WORRIES: A survey by payroll processor ADP showed U.S. companies hired workers at the slowest pace in three years last month. ADP said private companies hired 156,000 workers in April, down from 194,000 in March. The figure was significantly worse than expected. The weak reading bodes poorly for the broader job market survey due out Friday from the Labor Department, which is one of the most closely watched reports on the economic calendar. Economists expect the government to report that U.S. employers created 200,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate remained held steady at 5 percent.
GLOBAL OUTLOOK: Other economic indicators out of Europe were disappointing on Wednesday. Retail sales fell 0.5 percent during March from the previous month. Investors had expected a more modest decline of just 0.1 percent.
Financial information company Markit said its purchasing managers’ index for the region, a gauge of business activity, slipped to 53 in April from 53.1 the previous month. Though still above the 50 threshold indicating expansion, the reading has fallen from the start of the year.
HESITANCY: While stocks are well off the lows they hit in February, investors remain reluctant to make heavy bets back into stock market. The S&P 500 has bounced off the 2,100-point mark several times in the last six months, most recently as last week. That means investors feel stocks are too expensive to make big bets, and are waiting to see more positive data or earnings in order to make bolder buys, traders say.
ANALYST’S OPINION: “We’ve run out of gas here. . . . We are going to need some sort of catalyst to move this market higher, but I don’t know what that catalyst might be,” said Rob Bernstone, a managing director in equity trading at Credit Suisse. “Earnings have been OK, but not strong enough to say it’s time to buy.”