Stocks - Dow's Late-Stage Rally Falls Short Amid Slump in U.S. Job Gains

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Stocks - Dow's Late-Stage Rally Falls Short Amid Slump in U.S. Job Gains
Credit: © Reuters. - The Dow closed lower for a fifth-straight day Friday as a late-session rally proved too little too late following an earlier slide on data showing the U.S. economy created fewer jobs than expected, adding to fears of a slowdown in global growth.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.09% to close at 25,450.24 after recovering from a session low of 25,252.46. The S&P 500 lost 0.21%, while the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.18%.

For the week, the Dow was off 2.2%, its second weekly loss in a row. The S&P 500 fell 2.15%. The Nasdaq dropped 2.5%. The Nasdaq's decline was its first after 10 straight weekly gains. The S&P 500 snapped a five-week winning streak.

The U.S. Labor Department reported 20,000 jobs were created last month, well short of economists' estimates for around 181,000, raising fears the slowdown in global growth could be starting to make a dent on the U.S. economy. But wage growth and the unemployment rate did offer some solace for investors and traders as both measures exceeded economists' estimates.

Analysts downplayed the report, saying weather-related noise had weighed on job creation.

The slowing may reflect "some moderation" in the trend, but much of decline was likely caused by "weather effects," High Frequency Economics said. "While the three-month average of job gains is a still-healthy 186,000, that is below what has been a 200K-plus trend."

"The trend likely remains more than strong enough to keep the unemployment rate trending down over time," HFE added.

The slump in U.S. job growth comes during a week in which signs of a slowdown in the global economy have been front and center.

China said Friday its exports slid the most in three years in February compared with a year earlier. A day earlier, the European Union launched a fresh stimulus measure to prop up lending after warning the slumber in euro-area growth would likely continue into the current year.

Fears that oil-demand growth could suffer in the wake of a wobble in the global economy, pressured U.S. crude prices, sending energy stocks lower. Brent Oil Futures also fell.

In a sign of souring investor appetite on risk assets, defensive corners of the market were in favor as utilities, real estate and consumer staples ended the day higher.

Consumer staples were also boosted by a 5.1% surge in Costco Wholesale shares after the wholesale members club posted a fiscal-second-quarter profit that topped estimates from The report prompted bullish calls from analysts on Wall Street.

RBC raised its price target on shares of Costco (NASDAQ: COST ) to $250 from $235.

Oppenheimer raised its price target on Costco's stock to $245 from $240, citing potential the retailer may declare a special dividend of as much as $10 that "could add more upside to the story as the year progresses."

In other corporate news, DowDuPont confirmed it would split into three separate companies - Dow, DuPont (NYSE: DWDP ) and Corteva Agriscience - starting April 1.

The new Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW ) should begin trading in early April followed later by the agricultural business, Corteva.

"Today's announcement marks a major milestone toward successfully separating Dow on April 1, to be followed by the expected separation of Corteva Agriscience from the new DuPont on June 1" that will bring about three independent companies, Ed Breen, chief executive officer of DowDuPont, said in a statement.

Dow will be an independent, publicly traded company that will list on the New York Stock Exchange on or about March 20 under the ticker symbol "DOW WI" and begin trading April 2 under the ticker symbol "DOW."

Top S&P 500 Gainers and Losers Today:

Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ: COST ), H&R Block (NYSE: HRB ) and Seagate Technology (NASDAQ: STX ) were among the top S&P 500 gainers for the session.

Noble Energy (NYSE: NBL ), EOG Resources (NYSE: EOG ) and Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN ) were among the worst S&P 500 performers of the session.

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