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Stocks retreat after huge run-up

SHARE Stocks retreat after huge run-up

NEW YORK — A disappointing jobs report rattled Wall Street today, quashing a seven-day advance for the Nasdaq composite index and a five-day, 250-point rise for the Dow Jones industrials.

"You have to keep in mind we have had a significant run-up this week," said Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co., who said higher-than-expected job cuts gave investors reason to lock in profits and were responsible for much of the market's losses.

The Dow closed down 84.56, or 0.9 percent, at 9,503.34. The loss followed a five-day advance of 254 points that carried the blue-chip index to its highest level since June 18, 2002.

The Nasdaq dropped 10.73, or 0.6 percent, at 1,858.24, following a seven-day gain of 104 points that had taken it to its highest closing level since March 19, 2002, when it stood at 1,880.87.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 6.58, or 0.6 percent, to 1,021.39, having garnered an eight-day gain of nearly 35 points. Thursday's close was the highest level seen since June 18, 2002.

Despite today's sell-off, the market's major gauges ended the week higher. The Dow rose 0.9 percent in its fifth straight winning week, an accomplishment last seen at the end of November.

The Nasdaq ended the week up 2.6 percent; the S&P, up 1.3 percent.

This past week's rallies were fueled by strong economic data, which on Thursday included big gains in factory orders and worker productivity.

But today, the Labor Department reported that while the unemployment rate slipped to 6.1 percent in August, companies slashed payrolls by 93,000. Today's report was weaker than expected and delivered mixed signals about the nation's overall economic health. Wall Street was expecting jobs to increase by 20,000 to 25,000, Hogan said.

"We are concerned about the jobs creation part of the economy," Hogan said.

While August was the seventh consecutive month of cuts in payrolls, the overall seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 6.2 percent of the labor force, as reflected by a broader survey of U.S. households.

Meanwhile, investment banks J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. raised their third-quarter economic growth expectations — to annualized rates of 5.5 percent and 5 percent respectively.

Still, it was time for the market to pull back, analysts said.

"The markets are overbought, extended. ... I think investors and traders, particularly traders, are looking for a spot to raise some cash," said A.C. Moore, chief investment strategist for Dunvegan Associates in Santa Barbara, Calif.

A look at some of today's losers on Wall Street indicates that investors were indeed locking in recent gains. Procter & Gamble Co. fell 45 cents to $90.98, having climbed $2.63 on Thursday when it said it third-quarter earnings would beat analysts' expectations.

Cisco Systems Inc. declined 17 cents to $20.42, having gained 35 cents on Thursday following an upgrade by Goldman Sachs.

Brokerage house downgrades also contributed to the market's decline.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. fell $1.19 to $58.89 after Banc of America Securities cut its to "neutral" from "buy."

The Finish Line Inc. dropped $1.85 to $25.30 after Merrill Lynch downgraded the athletic shoe and sporting goods retailer to "neutral" from "buy."

Among today's gainers, Intel Corp. advanced 11 cents to $28.71 after raising the low-end of its third-quarter revenue projection and saying gross margins will meet the high-end of its estimates.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers slightly more than 4 to 3 on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading volume was a moderate 1.44 shares, comparable to Thursday's 1.46 billion.

The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of smaller company stocks, fell 3.69, or 0.7 percent, to 508.87.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average finished today up 0.04 percent. In Europe, France's CAC-40 fell 0.5 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.2 percent and Germany's DAX index lost 1.7 percent.

On the Net:

New York Stock Exchange: www.nyse.com

Nasdaq Stock Market: www.nasdaq.com