If you were hoping to end your investing week in the green, think again. Stocks are swinging sharply lower, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has found a home in the red today following March’s disappointing jobs numbers, which dropped precipitously from February. As of 2:25 p.m. EDT, the blue-chip index has fallen 85 points, or 0.58%, with many component stocks shedding 1% or more. With the market on a roll this year, investors have been looking for a correction, and today they got one.
Jobs can’t get a grip
Payrolls added a mere 88,000 jobs in March — the lowest monthly gain in nine months and more than 100,000 short of analysts’ projections. That was also a huge drop-off from February’s gain of nearly 270,000 jobs. This report isn’t the end of the world: Many economists have predicted that the economy’s fast start to 2013 would slow down in the middle of the year, and the country still has years of growth ahead of it before it reaches pre-recession unemployment levels. However, it’s a disappointing blow to many who were encouraged by signs that the economy was accelerating its comeback.
The disappointment has hit Dow stocks hard, and none more so than American Express Company (NYSE:AXP). The financial firm has lost 2.6% so far today. Lower employment translates to lower consumer spending as Americans tighten their wallets — an outcome far from ideal for American Express Company (NYSE:AXP). The stock has still picked up more than 13.5% since the start of 2013, but a sluggish middle of the year could see shares drop off from their recent highs as credit card spending slows. If the economy bounces back soon, however, American Express Company (NYSE:AXP) will be poised to rise right along with it.
The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD) is another stock that has done well this year — shares have risen more than 11.3% since the start of 2013 — and is being hit hard today. The home retail stock is down 1% so far. Although a sluggish economy is not good for anyone, The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD) has less to fear: With residential construction on the rise and housing starts picking up fast, this company’s well-positioned to capitalize on the rebound in the housing market.
Big Oil’s on the downswing as well today. Shares of Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) and Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) have fallen 0.7% and 1%, respectively. Both companies are recovering from headaches. Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) recently announced that it has finally finished repairing a damaged refinery in Richmond, Calif., that was hit by a fire last year — an incident that cost the company around $1 million in fines from state safety regulators. Still, that’s much better than Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM)’s current plight. The company pledged to cover the costs of cleaning up thousands of barrels of oil that spilled in Arkansas. This won’t hit Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM)’s pocketbook too hard, but it has left a smudge on the company’s reputation.