NEW YORK — Shares of Merrill Lynch & Co., the world's largest securities firm, fell Friday following a published report that the company is considering cutting as many as 2,000 jobs, or about 2.9 percent of its worldwide work force.
The Wall Street Journal, citing unidentified people familiar with the plan, said Merrill is considering eliminating the jobs from its flagship brokerage division in a cost-cutting measure. The move could save the firm as much as $150 million a year, according to the newspaper. The company had no comment.
Merrill's shares were down $3.688, or 3 percent, at $120.375 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock rose $6 on Thursday, closing at a 52-week high of $124.
If the job cuts occur, it would represent the largest cutback at the company since 1998, when Merrill slashed 3,400 jobs in the wake of losses in the bond markets.
Merrill was also reeling at that time from losses incurred from its relationship with Long-Term Capital Management, a big hedge fund that nearly collapsed amid the global financial crisis that followed currency devaluations in Russia and across Asia.
Merrill's brokerage division has about 37,000 employees, including some 14,400 brokers. In all, the firm employs 68,600 people.
The cuts are not expected to involve the firm's brokerage sales force, however, according to the Wall Street Journal. Instead, the jobs will be eliminated from Merrill's marketing and technology areas, the newspaper said.