Wall Street couldn’t have asked for any more out of the February jobs report, but a fresh escalation of danger in Eastern Europe was more than enough to keep stocks grounded to end the week.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday said that 678,000 jobs were created last month, blowing past expectations for 423,000. Moreover, the unemployment rate ticked down even further, to 3.8%, while average hourly wages shot 5.1% higher.
But casting a long shadow over that news were late Thursday reports that Russia’s military fired upon Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, sparking a fire that was later extinguished. While the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that radiation levels remained normal, the reports revived memories of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster (remember, that happened in Ukraine).
Those concerns appeared to hold equity markets down from the get-go, and the major indexes never recovered. The Nasdaq Composite again led the way lower, off 1.7% to 13,313, while the S&P 500 (-0.8% to 4,328) and Dow Jones Industrial Average (-0.5% to 33,614) also closed solidly in the red.
The “fear trade” was alive and well, however. Gold futures gained another 1.6% to $1,966.60 per ounce, while U.S. crude oil futures rocketed 7.4% higher to $115.68 per barrel – a closing level not seen since September 2008.
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“Events in Ukraine … are causing risk aversion and a flight to safety as the attack on a nuclear power plant illustrates how dangerous the war is to the entire world, and not just the tremendous suffering of the Ukrainian people,” says Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance.
Other news in the stock market today:
- The small-cap Russell 2000 declined again, losing 1.6% to 2,000.
- Bitcoin suffered another steep decline, off 5.6% to $39,486.97. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m.)
- Rivian Automotive (RIVN) – which is on next week’s earnings calendar – slid 6.9% after Baird analyst George Gianarikas cut his price target on the electric vehicle (EV) maker to $100 from $150, though this is still more than double the stock’s Friday close at $47.39. “On March 1, Rivian increased prices on its consumer vehicles based on inflationary impacts to its cost structure, only to reverse the changes to its pre-existing order book [on March 3],” Gianarikas writes in a note. While the financial impact to the roll back will be “material,” or around $15,000 per each of the 71,000 book orders, he has “full confidence that Rivian has gathered one of the best management teams and top industry talent to fully capitalize on mobility’s EV revolution.” As …….