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Pre-Market Primer: Job Report a Huge Miss


Last month 88,000 jobs were added.

Stocks are set to decline this morning after a report on job growth in March fell far short of expectations.

US employers added 88,000 workers to payrolls last month, over 100,000 fewer than expected. The unemployment rate fell 0.1 percentage points to 7.6% while the participation rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 63.3%.

Amidst the sequester cuts, government jobs declined by 7,000. The industry with the biggest net loss was retail which lost 24,100 workers.

The uncertainty over the March non-farm payrolls report took its toll as stock futures trended down ahead of the data release. Some economists cut their forecasts for the level of job growth last month after ADP's private-sector count fell short of expectations and jobless claims surprised with an uptick yesterday.

Obviously, 88,000 new jobs is a weak number after February's. On a brighter side, January was revised up to 148,000 from 119,000 and February was revised up to 268,000 from 236,000.

Another view is that a worse number is better for stocks, because it decreases the likelihood of the Federal Reserve ratcheting down its quantitative easing program early, as one Fed chief suggested is possible earlier this week.

A separate report showed that the US trade deficit declined in February to $43 billion from January's $44.4 billion.

Stock futures were lower before the jobs report. Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) futures fell 0.58% at 14,447. S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) futures sank 0.62% to 1,545.00 and Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) futures slipped 0.67% to 2,766.25.

Asian shares were mixed overnight. Japan's Nikkei (INDEXNIKKEI:.NI225) rallied 1.58% as the country begins an ambitious monetary stimulus program and the weaker currency attracted investment from abroad. Hong Kong stocks fell however as a sixth person died from bird flu.

European shares also declined before the US data release. Eurozone retail sales fell 0.3% on a monthly basis in February. German manufacturers orders grew 2.3% in February after falling 1.9% in January. Year over year, orders were flat.

This afternoon, the government will report on consumer credit in the US in February. Economists expect to see a $15 billion rise in credit after a $16.15 billion gain in January.

Ray Lane has stepped down as Chairman of Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) following criticism over his role in the acquisition of Autonomy, which later led to an $8 billion write-down. He will stay on the board as a director and Ralph Whitworth will take on the chairmanship on an interim basis.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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