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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 11:28 a.m., Friday, December 7, 2007

Stocks end day mixed after 'employment letdown'

Associated Press Business Writer

NEW YORK — Wall Street paused from its big rally Friday, with stocks closing narrowly mixed after the government's November labor report showed tepid job growth as well as a pickup in inflation. The major indexes ended the week higher, with the Dow Jones industrials having gained nearly 900 points over nine trading days.

The Labor Department reported 94,000 jobs were added to payrolls in November and that the unemployment rate held steady at 4.7 percent. Thomson/IFR analysts had set a median projection of 100,000 new jobs. The report also showed that average hourly earnings increased 0.5 percent in November, compared with forecasts for a more-modest 0.3 percent.

The report at least temporarily chilled a rally that has left the Dow only about 500 points below the record close it reached on Oct. 9.

"I'd call it an employment letdown," said Jack A. Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank. "A little air came out of the party balloon."

"Stocks are taking a breather from a maniacal runup over the last few days," said Paul Nolte, director of investments at Hinsdale Associates. He described the stock market as paralyzed ahead of the Federal Reserve's meeting on interest rates on Tuesday, and said many investors don't want to make bold moves until the Fed's decision is announced.

On the plus side, the report did give the Fed more room to lower rates. The debate now centers on whether the central bank will drop rates by a quarter percentage point or finish the year with a half-point cut. However, Nolte noted that it would be easier to make a case for a larger cut if the November employment report had been weaker.

According to preliminary calculations, the Dow rose 5.69, or 0.04 percent, to 13,652.58. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 2.68, or 0.18 percent, to 1,504.66, while the Nasdaq composite index dipped 2.87, or 0.11 percent, to 2,706.16.


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