10 Jan 2009

Markets react to gloomy US jobs data

1:06 pm on 10 January 2009

Markets on Wall Street and in Europe were lower on Friday after US government data showed the labour market deteriorated further in December, raising investor concerns about the outlook for profits, spending and a deepening recession.

American employers slashed 524,000 jobs from payrolls in December, bringing total job losses for 2008 to 2.6 million, the most since 1945.

US President-elect Barack Obama cited the faltering jobs market as a reason for his push for a new stimulus plan, set to include tax cuts and major public works spending that could total nearly $US800 billion.

Boeing announed on Friday it would cut 4,500 workers or about 7% of the workforce in its commercial airplane unit.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average ended down 143.28 points, or 1.64%, to 8,599.18 on Friday.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index slid 19.38 points, or 2.13%, to 890.35. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 45.42 points, or 2.81%, to 1,571.59.

Markets down in Britain and Europe

In Britain the leading share index fell for the third day in a row, led down by heavyweight commodity stocks, as the surge in the US jobless rate stoked concerns of a deepening recession.

The FTSE 100 closed down 1.26%, or 56.83 points, at 4,448.54, for a weekly loss of 113.25 points.

European shares also fell for the third consecutve day. The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares fell 0.5% to close at 866.95 points. In the first full week of trading in 2009, it rose 1.2%.

Oil prices down

Oil prices fell 2% on Friday after data showing the big rise in US unemployment deepened the gloomy outlook for the world's biggest oil consumer.

US crude for February delivery settled down 87 cents at $US40.83, with late short-covering pulling prices above earlier lows below $US40.

London Brent crude settled down 25 cents at $US44.42.

Oil prices have fallen more than $US100 from a record peak of above $US147 a barrel last July as the global economic downturn hits demand for fuel.

Asian stocks lower

Asian stocks edged down on Friday. The MSCI index of stocks in the Asia-Pacific region outside Japan inched down 0.2%, creeping further away from a one-month high reached on Wednesday.

Japan's Nikkei average slipped 0.5% as exporters lost steam after a recent rally.

The benchmark, which had climbed nearly 9% in a recent rally on hopes for economic steps by the incoming US administration, booked its first weekly decline in a month.

In seesaw trade, the Nikkei shed 39.62 points to 8,836.80.

For the week, it dipped 0.3%. The last weekly fall was recorded in the week of 1 December with a 7% drop. The broader Topix fell 0.7% to 855.02.

Australia, New Zealand

Global resources giant BHP Billiton propped up the Australian share market on Friday, tipping it into positive territory amid weakness among financials.

At 1615 AEDT on Friday the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index had firmed 41.4 points, or 1.12% to 3,735.7 and the broader All Ordinaries index had risen 36.8 points, or 1.01%, to 3,680.4.

On the Sydney Futures Exchange, the March share price index contract was eight points higher at 3,700 on a volume of 15,216 contracts.

BHP Billiton added 95c or 3.09% to $A31.70, while rival Rio Tinto eased seven cents or 0.16% to $A43.93.

Australia's major lenders finished mixed, with Commonwealth Bank firming 24c to $A28.80 and National Australia Bank up 14c to $A21.00.

But ANZ Banking Group backtracked by two cents to $A15.20 while Westpac declined seven cents to $A16.50.

Trading volumes are starting to increase although the level of active participants in the market remains low as the holiday period continues.

In flat trading on the New Zealand sharemarket, the NZX50 closed up 0.7 points or 0.03% on Friday at 2757.