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US: Stocks end lower after dreary March jobs data, Dow -1.7%

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Wall Street stocks finished sharply lower Friday following a gloomy jobs report that analysts said represented a harbinger of far worse unemployment due to the coronavirus outbreak.

[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks finished sharply lower Friday following a gloomy jobs report that analysts said represented a harbinger of far worse unemployment due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended down 1.7 per cent, or around 350 points, at 21,052.53.

The broad-based S&P 500 shed 1.5 per cent to 2,488.65, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index also dropped 1.5 per cent to 7,373.08.

US employment plunged by 701,000 in March and the jobless rate surged to 4.4 per cent, the Labor Department reported earlier Friday.

Yet the department acknowledged its statistics could not yet capture the full extent of the damage, and its own weekly data on first-time claims for jobless benefits showed 10 million people lost their jobs in the last two weeks of the month.

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"While this payroll report may appear dark, it sadly pales in comparison to the expected 24 million job loss in April," Oxford Economics said in a note.

"With much of the US economy at a standstill and ten million individuals having filed for unemployment benefits over the last two weeks, the labour market has entered a traumatic period."

The report came as the Trump administration formally launched a US$350 billion small business program that officials hope will limit the hit to the employment picture.

Large banks were at various stages of ramping up their lending programmes, but it wasn't clear just how fast funds could reach firms that face near-term cashflow problems due to plunging revenues.

"The next couple of months are going to be critical for figuring out how many small businesses will make it through this to the other side," said Neil Bradley, executive vice-president of the US Chamber of Commerce.

AFP

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