A fresh wave of bad economic news, including a half-million Americans newly out of work and the weakest October retail sales in nearly 40 years, pummeled the stock market Thursday, driving the Dow Jones industrials under 9,000 again with a stunning two-day decline of 10 percent.
WASHINGTON — A fresh wave of bad economic news, including a half-million Americans newly out of work and the weakest October retail sales in nearly 40 years, pummeled the stock market Thursday, driving the Dow Jones industrials under 9,000 again with a stunning two-day decline of 10 percent.
And today’s monthly jobs report from the Labor Department isn’t expected to bring good news. Analysts estimate 200,000 net job losses for October will be reported. The unemployment rate, now at 6.1 percent, is expected to rise to 6.3 percent. If it does, it would match the highest unemployment rate that was logged after the last recession, in 2001. The jobless rate hit 6.3 percent in June 2003 and then started to drift downward.
The high market volatility that characterized the financial meltdown in September and October has returned, with the Dow falling 443 points Thursday after sliding 486 on Wednesday. The economic picture is growing notably bleaker, emphasized by the heap of new indicators released Thursday, all of them discouraging.
The Labor Department reported 481,000 new filings for unemployment benefits for last week, slightly lower than the week before but well into recession territory.
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The total number drawing jobless benefits in late October rose to 3.84 million, worse than analysts had expected and far higher than a year ago.
The last time the figure was that high was February 1983, toward the end of a painful recession, although the work force then was only about two-thirds the size it is today.
The increase suggests the out-of-work are having a harder time finding jobs than in previous weeks.
Retail sales for October were the worst in at least 39 years, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs index, suggesting shoppers will be skittish this holiday season.
Seattle-based Nordstrom and Issaquah-based Costco reported disappointing October sales with the financial crisis and mounting layoffs leaving consumers too scared to shop. Only Wal-Mart managed a sales gain.
Productivity of U.S. workers slowed dramatically in the summer, another Labor Department report showed. Labor costs rose.
The International Monetary Fund predicted the economies of the United States, Europe and Japan will shrink in 2009. If that proves correct, it would mark the first annual decline by such “advanced economies” since World War II.
• Cisco Systems issued a warning about slumping demand, sending shudders through technology companies.
• Auto-parts maker Dana said it will cut 2,000 more employees than originally planned after a bigger loss in the third quarter.
• Fidelity Investments said Thursday it will cut nearly 1,300 jobs this month, with more layoffs to come early next year, in response to declining markets.
• Mattel said Thursday it is cutting about 1,000 positions worldwide because of the economic downturn that is clouding the holiday outlook for toy makers. Even La-Z-Boy said it will cut 850 jobs, or 10 percent of its work force, as home-furnishings sales slow.
General Motors and Ford are expected to report huge losses today, a day after their CEOs visited Congress to make the case for federal aid for the industry.
With the new cuts, Ford has shed around 41,000 hourly workers since 2006, mainly through early-retirement and buyout offers. With the new cuts the company will have about 42,000 hourly workers in the U.S.
GM, which also has undergone a dramatic reduction of its factory work force with buyouts and early-retirement offers, had about 125,000 U.S. hourly employees in 2003 and expects that to be 62,500 by the end of this year.
Energy demand fades
One benefit of the slowing economy is that demand for energy fades. Oil prices neared $60 a barrel Thursday, their lowest point since peaking at $147.27 in mid-July. And the price of gasoline has tumbled from summer highs, when a gallon cost more than $4.
As the threat of a global recession grows, the European Central Bank (ECB) cut interest rates by half a percentage point to 3.25 percent.
And the Bank of England made an even more aggressive reduction, by 1.5 percentage point, its biggest in 27 years.
Comments by the ECB president suggested the bank did not cut further over fears of triggering inflation.
The Federal Reserve ratcheted down interest rates to 1 percent last week and left the door open to further reductions in a bid to prevent a prolonged recession.
Information from Bloomberg News
is included this report.