Uncertain investors pushed stocks lower in a meandering session yesterday as a key government jobs report failed to answer Wall Street's lingering questions about the economy and...

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NEW YORK — Uncertain investors pushed stocks lower in a meandering session yesterday as a key government jobs report failed to answer Wall Street’s lingering questions about the economy and interest rates. The major indexes ended the first week of 2005 with a loss.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 18.92 to 10,603.96.

Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, fell 8 cents to close at $26.67 yesterday, ending the week off 5 cents or 0.2 percent. Boeing, also a Dow stock, declined 17 cents yesterday to $50.31, ending the week off $1.46 or 2.8 percent.

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Broader stock indicators saw modest losses. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 1.70 at 1,186.19, and the Nasdaq composite index dropped 1.39 to 2,088.61.

Investors were unsure how to read the latest Labor Department job-creation report, which showed 157,000 jobs created in December — less than the 175,000 expected, but still high enough to show continued growth in the labor market and hopefully stave off inflation and higher interest rates from the Federal Reserve.

The first week of 2005 was a difficult one for Wall Street, as the major indexes fell four out of the five sessions. For the week, the Dow lost 1.66 percent, the S&P fell 2.12 percent and the Nasdaq sank 3.99 percent, reflecting investors’ concerns that the Federal Reserve might hasten plans to raise interest rates.

The week’s downward trend doesn’t bode well for those who subscribe to the “January indicator,” a maxim that claims the market’s direction for the year can be divined by its performance over the first five days of January.

While the January indicator works well for a positive week — the market has risen for the year 29 out of 34 years when the first week of trading was positive — a down week has equated to a down year only 10 out 20 years.


Mutual-fund listing


Because of technical problems encountered by our mutual-fund data supplier, year-to-date percentage returns listed for mutual funds on E3 are based on net asset values at the close of trading Thursday. However, the NAVs and net change figures reflect yesterday’s trading.