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Jobless Data Sends Stocks Downward

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NEW YORK – Stocks closed sharply lower Monday after investors delivered their verdict on disappointing job growth in March. It’s only the second four-day losing streak of the year for the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor’s 500.

The Dow sank as much as 156 points and spent the whole trading day below 13,000. It touched its lowest level during a trading day since March 12, also the last day it closed below 13,000.

The Dow closed down 131 points at 12,930 for its fourth loss in a row. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index closed down 16 at 1,382, also a four-day losing streak. The Nasdaq composite lost 33 points to 3,047.

Losses in stocks were broad. All 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 fell, with financial stocks the worst performers. Bank of America and Citigroup were both off about 2 percent.

The country added just 120,000 jobs in March, about half the pace from December through February, interrupted the strongest stretch of job growth since the Great Recession.

The government released its jobs report on Friday, but the stock market was closed for the Good Friday holiday. The bond market was open a half-day Friday, but investors mostly had to wait to react.

The jobs report only darkened the mood in a market that had already started to pull back from its strongest first quarter since 1998. The Dow closed as high as 13,264 earlier last week, then lost more than 200 points in three days.

Investors had started to get worried because the Federal Reserve indicated that it would not take further steps to stimulate the economy.

“I believe the Fed is not going to waste any ammunition unless it sees further weakness,” said Rex Macey, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust Investment Advisers.

This week, investors turn their attention to first-quarter earnings reports. Analysts are expecting quarterly earnings to decline slightly compared with a year earlier. That would break a streak of nine quarters of earnings growth since 2009.

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