Stocks fall following disappointing jobs report

NEW YORK — Investors retreated further from stocks Friday as the pile of disappointing economic reports grew larger.

A modest slide left stocks lower for a second week, the first consecutive drop since July. The Dow Jones industrial average fell for a fourth day, losing 22 points one day after sliding 203 on reports of weak manufacturing and a jump in claims for jobless benefits.

The loss Friday came as the government said employers cut more jobs than economists had expected last month and that orders at factories fell. The reports added to concerns that the economy's recovery could be further off than had been hoped.

The Labor Department surprised investors with its report that employers shed 263,000 jobs last month. The cuts went beyond the 201,000 jobs lost in August and were far larger than the 180,000 economists expected. The unemployment rate ticked up to 9.8 percent from 9.7 percent as forecast.

The report is often the most anticipated piece of economic news each month because an eventual drop in unemployment is key to sustained recovery.

"There's been a lot of talk particularly in the last couple of months that we're seeing a turnaround in unemployment, and obviously that's not the case," said Dan Cook, senior market analyst at IG Markets in Chicago.

Meanwhile, the surprise drop in factory orders added to the lackluster economic readings of the past two weeks. The Commerce Department said factory orders fell 0.8 percent in August. Analysts had been expecting an increase.

The market's optimism has been tested by economic data that has either weakened or fallen short of expectations, a disappointment after several months of hopeful signs from key industries like housing and manufacturing. That has led investors to question whether the 50 percent surge in stocks over the past six months can be sustained.

With nerves running high, stocks have fallen in seven of the past eight days. The Dow has lost about 4.3 percent since coming within 82 points of the 10,000 level on Sept. 23.

Bruce Shalett, managing partner of Wynston Hill Capital in New York, said the jobs report was "a reminder that while things are not as dire as they were a year ago, we still have a lot of work to do."

Many found the relatively calm response to the jobs report encouraging, taking it as a sign there are still investors willing to use the dips to pick up stocks they consider cheap.

"Pullbacks are going to constantly be used as opportunities to get into the market," said Hank Smith, chief investment officer of equity at Haverford Investments in Radnor, Pa.

Some of Thursday's slide was likely due to investors making bets that the employment number would indeed be bad. That would also help explain Friday's muted selling. The Dow fell 21.61, or 0.2 percent, to 9,487.67, its lowest close since Sept. 4. The index fell as much as 79 points during trading.

The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 4.64, or 0.5 percent, to 1,025.21, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 9.37, or 0.5 percent, to 2,048.11.

Two stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 5.6 billion shares compared with 6 billion Thursday.

For the week, the Dow fell 1.8 percent, its biggest loss since early July. The S&P 500 index lost 1.8 percent after falling 2.2 percent last week. The Nasdaq fell 2 percent for the week.