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New York traders on April 5, 2013 (Reuters)
New York traders on April 5, 2013 (Reuters)

At midday: Stocks pare earlier losses Add to ...

North American stocks were down in midday trading on Friday, but above earlier lows, after a disappointing U.S. payrolls report rattled confidence in the economic recovery.

The S&P 500 was down 14 points or 0.9 per cent, to 1546 – rebounding slightly after falling below 1540 near the start of trading. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average was down 113 points or 0.8 per cent, to 14,493. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 77 points or 0.6 per cent, to 12,286.

The moves followed the U.S. Labor Department’s monthly payrolls report, which showed that employers added just 88,000 jobs in March. The gains were well below expectations for 190,000 new jobs and also below February’s revised job gains of 268,000.

While one disappointing month does not skewer hopes for the economic recovery, it does raise concerns about the impact of government spending cuts. The payroll gains in March were the slowest since last June. On the other hand, the report bolsters confidence that the Federal Reserve will continue to provide economic stimulus, in the form of low interest rates and bond-buying.

The news was even worse in Canada, where employers shed 54,500 jobs in March, marking a sharp reversal from last month when employers added 50,700 jobs.

Within the S&P 500, technology stocks were the worst hit, falling 1.4 per cent. Financials fell 1.2 per cent and consumer discretionary stocks fell 1.1 per cent. Utilities showed the only gains among the 10 subindexes, but were essentially flat.

Within Canada’s benchmark index, all 10 subindexes were down. Financials fell 1 per cent, consumer staples and industrials fell 0.7 per cent each, materials fell 0.4 per cent and energy stocks fell 0.3 per cent.

In Europe, stocks were also weak. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 fell 1.5 per cent and Germany’s DAX index fell 2 per cent.

Among commodities, gold rose to $1,568 (U.S.) an ounce, up $13. Crude oil fell to $92.34 a barrel, down 92 cents.

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