U.S. stocks posted a third week of losses in the past four, capping a volatile stretch after the government reported a big loss in jobs last month because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 360.91 points to close at 21,052.53. The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 1.5% to end at 2,488.65, as energy shares gave back gains after crude prices eased. For the week, the Dow fell more than 2.5% while the S&P 500 shed 2%.
The U.S. lost 701,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department said Friday, the first decline in job creation in a decade. The unemployment rate last month rose to 4.4% from 3.5%.
The data comes after a separate report on Thursday showed a record 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week. That was double the previous week’s job losses of 3.3 million. It raised the total number of Americans who are out of work due to the coronavirus-driven downturn to almost 10 million.
Stocks had held steady at first Friday, but headed lower after energy stocks gave up gains as crude prices lost momentum. The fresh bout of volatility signaled that investors were selling riskier assets like stocks heading into the weekend, analysts say.
Of the 13 Friday's so far in 2020, the S&P 500 index has booked losses in ten of those days, averaging a decline of 0.4%, according to Bespoke Investment Group.
"The jobs report didn't really have a lot to do with Friday's declines," says Nick Giacoumakis, president and founder at New England Investment & Retirement Group. "The unemployment figures certainly didn't help things, but investor sentiment was also weighed down by a combination of more deaths due to the virus and the lack of earnings guidance from companies.”