U.S. Stocks Slide Following Weak Wage Growth, Oil Price Slump

NEW YORK (AP) -

A turbulent week of trading ended Friday with U.S. stocks finishing lower for the third time in five days.

The decline followed two days of big gains and nudged major indexes lower for the year.

A slide in oil prices deepened, stoking concerns about global economic growth. Energy stocks tumbled, extending their losses for the year. Investors also were discouraged by weak U.S. wage growth in December, despite another strong increase in hiring.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index shed 17.33 points, or 0.8 percent, to 2,044.81. The index is now down 0.7 percent for the year.

The Dow Jones industrial average slid 170.50 points, or about 1 percent, to 17,737.37. The Dow has fallen 0.5 percent this year.

The Nasdaq composite lost 32.12 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,704.07. It’s down 0.7 percent this year.

After a long period of relative calm, stock markets have become more volatile as investors grapple with slowing global growth and slumping oil prices. A gauge of investor anxiety, the Chicago Board Options Exchange’s volatility index, or VIX, rose 3 percent to 17.5 on Friday, up from 12 a month ago.

A combination of positive U.S. economic news, hopes for stimulus from Europe’s central bank and renewed confidence that the Federal Reserve will keep supporting the economy helped push stocks higher in the middle of the week after a tough start to the year.

But by Friday, the jobs data and a renewed decline in oil prices put traders in a selling mood once again.

U.S. crude fell 43 cents, or 0.9 percent, to close at $48.36 a barrel in New York on further evidence that OPEC will not cut production in an effort to support prices. In London, Brent crude fell 85 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $50.11 a barrel, setting a new five and a half-year low.

The price of oil has fallen by more than half since June as traders anticipate a glut of supply caused by increased production. The slide also has stoked concern about the already troubled state of economies overseas.

The latest U.S. jobs data also gave some investors reason for concern.

The government reported that employers added 252,000 jobs in December, slightly more than economists expected. The government also noted that more jobs were added in October and November than it had previously estimated.

Still, wage growth remained weak, as average hourly pay slipped 5 cents in December. And the unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent from 5.8 percent in part because many of the jobless gave up looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed.

In government bond trading, prices rose. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury fell to 1.95 percent from 2.02 percent on Thursday.

The euro edged up to $1.1841 from $1.1792 the previous day. The dollar fell to 118.51 yen from 119.80 yen.

In metals trading, gold edged up $7.60 to $1,216.10 an ounce, silver rose three cents to $16.42 an ounce and copper fell two cents to $2.75 an ounce.

In other futures trading on the NYMEX:

  • Wholesale gasoline fell 1.8 cents to close at $1.323 a gallon.
  • Heating oil fell 0.8 cent to close at $1.703 a gallon.
  • Natural gas rose 1.9 cents to close at $2.946 per 1,000 cubic feet.