Payrolls expand barely

A tepid jobs report sent the major indexes down sharply in the early trading, but they rebounded to close mixed, with little change. The Dow lost 14 points, the Nasdaq rose by 1 point, and the S&P 500 Index advanced a fraction. Fifteen of the Dow’s 30 components gained ground, led by Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), which rose 1.3%. Volume was light. Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by three to two on the NYSE, but on the Nasdaq, the two ran neck and neck. The prices of Treasuries strengthened, while the price of gold futures gained 0.98% to $1,386.50 an ounce. The price of crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 1.99% to $110.53 a barrel.

For the week, the Dow gained 0.7%, the Nasdaq rose by 1.9%, and the S&P 500 Index advanced by 1.3%.

In Earnings News:

  • Smithfield Foods announced earnings fell from 40 cents a share a year ago to 27 cents a share in the latest quarter, as costs increased and exports of its pork products declined. The world’s largest producer of pork said exports fell due to the weakening of the Japanese yen and the tightening of import restrictions in Russia and China against pork raised on feed with a medical addictive called ractopamine. The price of Smithfield’s shares (SFD) closed fractionally lower in today’s session.

In Other Business News:

  • The economy added 169,000 jobs to nonfarm payrolls in August, according to the Labor Department. The Department also lowered its previous estimates of job growth in June and July, making employment growth in the past three months the weakest of the year. The unemployment rate fell to 7.3% in August, as more than 300,000 people left the job market. The “labor participation rate,” meaning the percentage of the population that is in the labor force, fell to 63% in August, which is the lowest it has been since 1978.
  • The G20 meeting of the leaders of top economic powers adjourned a two-day meeting with a statement noting the weakness of growth in Europe and the relative strength of growth in the U.S., Britain, and Japan. It also endorsed a plan to end tax evasion of multinational companies and to encourage private investment in public infrastructure. The statement concluded: "Despite our actions, the recovery is too weak, and risks remain tilted to the downside."
  • American Tower announced it has a deal to acquire MIP Tower, a company that has 5,400 communications towers in the U.S. American Tower will pay $3.3 billion for the acquisition, or $4.8 billion when MIP’s debt is included. American Tower’s shares (AMT) gained 4% in today’s session.

*****

The leprechauns who sweep up my cutting room floor are always asking me indignantly why I didn’t run this important story or that important story, and this week, they are more indignant than ever. Here’s a sampling of what the wee folk thought deserved headlines.

  • “Halloween creep,” the trend in which retailers display Halloween products earlier each year, set a new record this year when orange-and-black-wrapped Kit Kat candy was spotted in a Wegmans store in western New York State on August 12. (Creepy, indeed.)
  • At last, the settlement in a class action lawsuit was thrown out by a federal appeals court for being, well, rash. According to The Wall Street Journal, a few dozen parents filed suit against Procter & Gamble in 2011, alleging that Pampers diapers caused skin rash on their babies. Although the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found no link between the product and the rashes, P&G opted to settle the suit by paying $3 million, with $2.73 million going to the lawyers and $1,000 going to each crying baby. The court ruled that the lawyers got too much and the parents got too little. (In other words, under the settlement, the lawyers got pampered, the company got the rash, and the babies got, well, probably more than they deserved—but don’t they always.)
  • A new species of shark that walks on its fins on the ocean floor has been discovered near Indonesia, according to scientists working for Conservation International. (Cool, but in my hometown, New York City, there are sharks strolling down every street.)
  • People in London’s financial district are warming to the arrival of a new skyscraper, but not warming in a good way. The new 37-story tower has a glass skin and a concave shape that reflects concentrated sunlight onto a nearby street at temperatures high enough to burn the plastic parts on cars, singe carpets, and fry eggs. The building’s designers say they are looking for a quick fix. (Suntan lotion? Parasols? Talk about a financial meltdown.)
  • Also in London this week, the management of a building announced it is installing a hologram to act as the building’s receptionist. The hologram, which costs $19,000 a year compared with a much more expensive live human, shows a woman named “Shanice” who can answer questions put to it by visitors and point them in appropriate directions. Visitor: “Can you direct me to the financial district?” Shanice: “Go out the door, turn left, and keep walking. You won’t need me to tell you when you’re getting warm.”

Have a great weekend.

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