NEW YORK — Stocks are drifting between small gains and losses in early trading on Wall Street after a disappointing jobs report.
The government reported early Friday that U.S. employers added just 160,000 jobs last month, far fewer than forecast.
Utilities and health care stocks were lower, but technology and materials companies rose. Merck fell 1 percent, the most in the Dow Jones industrial average.
The Dow was off 20 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,638 in the first few minutes of trading. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell a half of a point to 2,049. The Nasdaq composite was little changed at 4,722.
Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.76 percent.
Weaker than expected U.S. jobs figures kept the pressure on European stock markets as well as predictions over Wall Street’s open.
News that the U.S. economy generated 160,000 jobs during April — a 7-month low and below expectations for a 200,000 increase — is likely to reinforce concerns that the world’s largest economy is experiencing a slowdown.
One potential boon for stock markets is that the data may reduce the likelihood of a June rate hike from the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Neil MacKinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital, says hopes that the Fed will delay another rate hike has not helped the S&P 500 index this week and “concerns over the economy — and corporate earnings — might weigh on the market near-term.”
That seems to be the case after Friday’s figures, with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.5 percent. In Europe, Germany’s DAX is trading 0.9 percent lower at 9,673 while the CAC-40 in France has fallen 1.6 percent to 4,250.
European stock markets are trading lower ahead of key U.S. jobs data that could go a long way to determining whether the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates again in June.
The payrolls report is always the most highly anticipated release of the month. April’s could be even more important than usual given the uncertainty over whether the Fed will hike rates in June. The consensus in the markets is that the U.S. economy added around 200,000 jobs during April. Perhaps of more interest is what the report says about wages in the U.S. given the Fed’s current focus on prices.
Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA, says the “bigger concern for the Fed right now is inflation, with wages not growing nearly as much as they would like to see.”
Germany’s DAX is down 0.6 percent at 9,795 while the CAC-40 in France has fallen 1 percent to 4,276. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares is 0.8 percent lower at 6,071.
Asian markets were mostly lower in nervous trading Friday ahead of a closely watched U.S. jobs-report that may influence interest rate decisions and the value of the U.S. dollar.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 0.3 percent to 16,106.72 as Tokyo resumed trading after the three-day “Golden Week” national holidays. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 edged 0.3 percent higher to 5,358.60, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 1.2 percent to 20,194.84. The Shanghai Composite sank 1.8 percent to 2,945.08. Markets were closed in South Korea for a national holiday.
Markets are focusing on the U.S. jobs report for April, due out later in the day, that is expected to show jobs grew by 200,000 last month while the unemployment rate stayed at 5 percent.
Benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 33 cents to $43.99 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was down 29 cents at $44.72 a barrel in London.
The euro fell to $1.1415 from $1.1490 and the dollar fell to 107.07 yen from 107.10 yen.