Stocks drop on jobs data

Stocks lower after report shows 524,000 jobs lost in December, jobless rate up to 7.2%.

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by CNNMoney.com staff

Have stock market losses caused you to postpone retirement plans?
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks dropped after the opening bell, following a report showing a huge decline in jobs.

At 9:36 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average, Nasdaq composite index and Standard & Poor's 500 all moved lower.

The Labor Department reported that job losses totaled 524,000 in December, meaning that the U.S. economy lost 2.6 million jobs in 2008, the most since 1945. That included a revised November job loss of 584,000.

The December number was just below the 525,000 consensus forecast of economists compiled by Thomson Reuters.

On Thursday, stocks ended a rocky session mixed as investors responded to weak retail sales and geared up for the jobs report.

Asian stocks finished lower Friday, with the Tokyo's Nikkei index down nearly 0.5%. European markets were higher in midday trading.

Manufacturing: A report on wholesale inventories could ease concerns about the manufacturing sector. The Census Bureau is expected to report after the opening bell that wholesale inventories fell 0.9% in November after falling 1.1% in October.

Companies: Meanwhile, battered homebuilder KB Home (KBH, Fortune 500) reported plunging revenue, but its worse-than-expected losses were a dramatic improvement from its year-earlier performance.

KB Home said total revenue for the fourth-quarter were $919 million, down from more than $2 billion in the year-ago quarter. The stock slipped slightly at the start of trading.

The homebuilder also reported a loss of $307 million, or $3.96 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter. The company was expected to report a fourth-quarter loss of $1.24 a share, according a poll of analysts compiled by Thomson Reuters.

Nonetheless, KB Home's fourth-quarter performance was much better than the last quarter of 2007, when it reported a net loss of $772 million, or $9.99 per diluted share.

Oil and money: Oil dropped $1.25 to $40.45 a barrel in electronic trading. The dollar was mixed versus major international currencies, falling against the yen but rising versus the euro and the British pound. To top of page

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