Markets & Stocks
Stocks tank at open
Weak monthly jobs report, anxiety about Iraq ahead of Blix speech and Intel news cause selling.
March 7, 2003: 9:39 AM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - A shockingly bad jobs report and new anxiety about Iraq knocked stocks sharply lower early Friday, ahead of chief U.N. weapons inspectors key updates to the United Nations.

At around 9:35 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average (down 89.64 to 7584.35, Charts), the Standard & Poor's 500 (down 9.43 to 812.67, Charts) index and the Nasdaq composite (down 17.64 to 1285.25, Charts) all fell around 1 percent.

Employers cut 308,000 jobs from their payrolls last month, the Labor Department said, while economists surveyed by Reuters were expecting them to add 8,000. The unemployment rate rose to 5.8 percent last month, up from 5.7 percent the previous month, although less than the 5.9 percent economists were expecting.

The news followed Thursday's poor weekly jobless claims and retail sales numbers, further unnerving investors about the state of the U.S. economy.

Looking beyond the homefront, U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei were due to give progress reports starting at around 10 a.m. ET to the deeply divided U.N. Security Council.

At a Thursday evening news conference, President Bush accused Iraq of engaging in a "willful charade" with U.N. weapons inspectors by hiding weapons of mass destruction and said that if the world didn't confront that, free nations would face unacceptable risks.

Corporate news offered no respite either.

After the close of trading Thursday, Intel (INTC: down $0.83 to $15.87, Research, Estimates) narrowed its first-quarter revenue forecast to $6.6 billion to $6.8 billion from an earlier range of $6.5 billion to $7 billion. Analysts had been forecasting sales of $6.8 billion.

The stock lost more than 5 percent in early trade. Other chip stocks and the companies that supply Intel with equipment also posted losses in the early going.

As a member of the Dow 30 and the Nasdaq composite, Intel is watched on Wall Street as a barometer for technology spending and the rest of the tech sector.

Treasury bonds benefited from the weakness in stocks, with the ten-year note surging 20/32 to 102-8/32, pushing the yield down to a new multi-year low of 3.58 percent.

Among major commodities markets, brent crude oil futures for May delivery fell 7 cents to $32.45 in London. Gold rose 30 cents to $357.20 in New York.

European stocks were down sharply, while Asian markets closed lower Friday. The dollar fell versus the yen and euro.  Top of page

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