Wall Street was set to open sharply lower on Friday after data showed U.S. job growth almost stalled in February, adding to global growth worries sparked by weak China export data and weakness in eurozone.
The U.S. economy created only 20,000 jobs in February, compared with expectations of non farm payrolls rising by 180,000 jobs last month, according to economists polled by Reuters.
“The poor number indicates that we are suffering alongside the rest of the global economy and that it is having an impact on the U.S.,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.
“The U.S. has been the best house in a lousy neighborhood and maybe that is changing.”
While job growth was the weakest since September 2017, other details of the closely followed employment report were strong. The unemployment rate fell back to below 4 percent and annual wage growth was the best since 2009.
Meanwhile, China’s exports in February tumbled 20.7 percent from a year earlier, the most in three years, compared to a 4.8 percent drop expected by economists polled by Reuters.
Chinese imports also fell for a third straight month, which stirred talk of a “trade recession”, despite a spate of support measures.
The weak China trade data overnight follows cut in growth forecasts by the European Central Bank, which unveiled a new round of stimulus.
“It shows that the tariffs on China are working and that bolsters Trump’s case, but China at the margin is one of the biggest players in global economy and it is struggling and is one of the keys of a slowing global growth,” Nolte said.
Adding to investor nerves was a comment from U.S. ambassador to China that the two sides have yet to set a date for a summit to resolve their trade dispute as neither side feels an agreement is imminent, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Tariff sensitive Boeing (NYSE:BA) Co fell 1.4 percent before the bell and Caterpillar Inc (NYSE:CAT) edged 1.7 percent lower, while chipmakers, which derive a large chunk of their revenue from China, also dropped.
Nvidia Corp, Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD) Inc and Micron Technology Inc (NASDAQ:MU) fell about 2.5 percent each.
The heavyweight FAANG group of stocks were also among early losers, with Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN), Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL), Netflix Inc (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Inc down between 1 percent and 2 percent.
At 8:46 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 195 points, or 0.77 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 20 points, or 0.73 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 63.75 points, or 0.91 percent.
Wall Street’s main indexes are eyeing their fifth day of declines and are on pace for their steepest weekly fall in at least two months after starting the year on a strong note.
The S&P 500 closed below a closely watched 200-day moving average level in the previous session for the first time in about a month.
In corporate news, Costco Wholesale Corp (NASDAQ:COST) jumped 4.6 percent after the warehouse club operator’s quarterly profit trumped estimates as margin pressures eased.
Oil majors ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) Corp fell 1.7 percent and Chevron Corp (NYSE:CVX) 1.4 percent after Norway’s trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund said it would drop oil and gas companies from its benchmark index and investment universe.
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