By Sofia Horta e Costa and Nick Taborek Bloomberg News
NEW YORK - U.S. stocks fell, extending this year’s decline for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, as data showed payrolls in December increased at the slowest pace since January 2011.
Alcoa Inc. dropped 5.8 percent after posting fourth-quarter profit that missed analysts’ estimates. Gap Inc. rose 1.4 percent after the retailer said annual profit may reach the upper end of its forecast. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. surged 11 percent after increasing its full-year earnings prediction.
The S&P 500 fell 0.1 percent to 1,836.95 at 11 a.m. in New York. The benchmark index has dropped 0.6 percent so far in 2014 after climbing 30 percent last year, the most since 1997. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 28.67 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,416.09 Friday. Trading in S&P 500 stocks was 17 percent above the 30-day average at this time of day.
“The markets have been priced for everything to go perfect,” Ron Florance, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based deputy chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank, which oversees $170 billion, said by phone. “This number shows us that it’s not going to be perfect. We’re still on the trajectory of recovery, but I would expect heightened volatility.”
The 74,000 gain in payrolls, less than the most pessimistic projection in a Bloomberg survey, followed a revised 241,000 advance the prior month, Labor Department figures showed Friday in Washington. The median forecast of 90 economists called for an increase of 197,000. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent, the lowest since October 2008, as more people left the labor force.
The Federal Reserve, which next meets Jan. 28-29, in December announced a reduction of $10 billion in its monthly bond-buying program to $75 billion, citing a recovery in the labor market. Three rounds of stimulus from the central bank have helped push the S&P 500 higher by 172 percent from a 12-year low in 2009.