viernes, 4 de marzo de 2011

Latest surge in oil prices sends stocks lower

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks fell Friday as worries about another jump in oil prices overshadowed a solid report on the U.S. job market.
Crude oil rose more than 1 percent to trade above $103 a barrel, its highest level since September 2008. Markets have been rattled over the past two weeks as the surge in oil prices threatened to undermine the U.S. economic recovery.
The Dow Jones industrial average is down 59 points, or 0.5 percent, to 12,199. The S&P 500 index is down 8, or 0.7 percent, at 1,322. The Nasdaq composite index is down 11, or 0.4 percent, to 2,787.
The Dow Jones industrial average slumped 323 points over three days last week as the conflict in Libya deepened. Investors worry that the uprisings that have already toppled regimes in Tunisia and Egypt could spread to major oil-producing countries in the region and disrupt the flow of crude.
News on the U.S. labor market was encouraging. The Labor Department reported that employers added 192,000 jobs in February, in the range of what economists expected. The unemployment rate dipped to 8.9 percent from 9 percent the previous month. The rate has dropped for three months in a row and is now at its lowest level since April 2009.
"They're tugging at each other, employment and oil," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of Harris Private Bank. "Oil is high enough that it has to be a concern. The longer it remains at this level the greater the chance that it upends our recovery."
The monthly labor market report followed other signs this week that the job market was gaining strength. The government said Thursday that the number of people applying for initial unemployment benefits fell to 368,000. That's the lowest level since May 2008. The surprising news on unemployment claims helped lift stocks on Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average had its biggest gain since Dec. 1.
Stocks still appear headed for weekly gains. All three major indexes have risen less than 1 percent this week.