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David Becker

US stocks moved lower on Friday following a larger than expected decline in payrolls. While the number was worse than expected, it completely understates the number of job losses experienced in the US in the last 2-weeks. Recall the Labor Department reported an increase of nearly 10-million in new jobless claims over the past 2-weeks. The 701,000 decline reflects the end of the survey period which was mid-March. Most sectors in the S&P 500 index were lower, led down by Utilities which dropped more than 4%. Consumer staples bucked the trend.

Energy shares were mixed, despite a surge in crude oil prices which saw WTI rise by 12%. This followed the US rig count which saw oil rigs drop by 65 rigs, which comes on top of the prior week’s drop of 40-rigs. Despite the drop in the broader indices, the VIX volatility index continued to move lower, falling by another 6.5% to 47.5%. Recall the VIX hit a high of 85% two weeks ago. US yields moved slightly higher, while the dollar continued to rise. Gold prices moved higher helping to buoy the mining sector.

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Employment Numbers Drop More than Expected

The US Labor Department reported on Friday that US non-farm payrolls decreased by 701,000 jobs in March. Job losses were widespread. The payrolls decline was the largest monthly decline since March 2009, the worst month for job losses during the last recession. The unemployment rate for March rose to 4.4% from 3.5% in February, the largest one-month increase in the rate since January 1975. In March, more than half of the jobs lost, 417,000, were at restaurants and bars. Hotels and other tourism and hospitality businesses industries also hit early in the crisis cut 42,000 jobs. Those unemployed for less than five weeks surged by 1.5 million while those at work part time for economic reasons jumped by more than 1.4 million.

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