Stocks and bonds on the slide


NEW YORK: US stocks fell on Friday and bonds spent most of the session sliding after the government reported that employers kept cutting payrolls in July, although the jobless rate fell. 

The yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury note hit a one-year high of 4.59% when its price plunged after the unemployment rate unexpectedly dropped to 6.2% in July from 6.4% in June. 

By the close, the 10-year note and 30-year bond had recovered their earlier losses to end Friday's session higher. But short-term Treasury prices edged down. 

A report on manufacturing released Friday morning also disappointed investors, who had expected the data to show more evidence of a pickup in the economy. 

Without the sought-after signs that the rocky economy is making a solid comeback, investors sold equities and unloaded bonds. 

“The market is stuck, and it’s going to stay stuck until we get a definitive and clear direction as to whether this economic recovery is taking hold or not,” said Jack Francis, co-head of domestic equity trading at UBS Investment Bank. 

All three stock indexes fell for the week. The Dow Jones industrial average snapped a four-week string of gains. The Dow dropped 1.4%, while the Nasdaq dipped 0.9% and the S&P 500 lost 1.9%. 

The dollar slipped against the euro and the yen, while gold prices hit two-week lows. 

But oil futures prices in New York skyrocketed to seven-week highs above US$32 a barrel as a gasoline pipeline blaze near Iraq’s biggest refinery added to oilfield looting concerns. 

The Dow Jones Industrial average slid 79.83 points, or 0.86%, to close at 9,153.97. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index shed 10.16 points, or 1.03%, to 980.15. The technology-laced Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 19.40 points, or 1.12%, to end at 1,715.62, based on the latest available figures. 

Wall Street got its first shock of the day when the Labor Department said US companies cut 44,000 jobs from their payrolls in July – surprising economists who expected a gain of 18,000 jobs. 

The day's next big economic number – the Institute for Supply Management's closely watched survey of the US manufacturing sector –failed to brighten Wall Street's mood. 

The ISM manufacturing index rose to 51.8 in July from 49.8 in June. A reading above 50 signals growth. 

Bank and brokerage shares fell, led by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co, as the bond market’s decline forced analysts to question the future of recently strong trading profits. 

J.P. Morgan shares sank US$1.69 or 4.8% to US$33.36 and were the Dow’s biggest percentage loser. 

US Treasury prices spent most of Friday’s session sharply lower as investors in mortgage-backed securities sold bonds to counter risks created by rising rates. 

Investors worry that sharp gains in bond yields and US interest rates will pump up borrowing costs and derail the economy’s fragile return. 

At the 5pm New York close, the price of the benchmark 10-year Treasury note was up 5/32 at 93-31/32, while its yield fell to 4.39% from 4.41% at Thursday’s close. 

The 30-year bond gained 20/32 to 100-25/32, while its yield fell to 5.32% from 5.36% on Thursday. 

In contrast, the two-year note inched down 2/32 to 99-15/32, yielding 1.78%, up from 1.75% the previous day. The five-year note was off 1/32 at 97-10/32 to yield 3.24%. 

In New York, oil futures prices jumped almost 6% to seven-week highs as a gasoline pipeline blaze near former dictator Saddam Hussein’s hometown added to oilfield looting concerns in Iraq. 

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, September crude surged US$1.77 to settle at US$32.31 a barrel. In London, IPE September Brent crude gained US$1.62 to settle at US$29.99 a barrel. 

In the currency markets, the euro rose to a session high of US$1.1274 after the release of the manufacturing data, before slipping back to US$1.1267, up 0.35% from US$1.228 at Thursday’s New York close. 

After hitting a three-month high of 120.69 yen, the dollar fell to 120.09 yen, down 0.35% from 120.51 yen at the previous US close. 

COMEX gold futures plunged on aggressive fund selling. 

Benchmark December gold on the New York Mercantile Exchange’s COMEX division shed US$8 to US$347.80 an ounce, its lowest close since July 18. 

Overseas, the FTSE Eurotop 300 index of European blue chips fell 1.2% to end at 872.65. Japanese stocks snapped a three-day losing streak. The Nikkei average rose 0.51% to finish at 9,611.67. – Reuters  

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