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Stocks headed toward a weak finish Friday (Nov. 3) after oil prices rose on word of a possible string of attacks in Nigeria near production facilities. The jump in oil prices offset enthusiasm over a Labor Department report that the nation’s unemployment rate fell to a five-year low.
Light, sweet crude rose $1.26 to $59.14 on the New York Mercantile Exchange after U.S. diplomats in Nigeria warned that militants are planning a series of kidnappings and bombing attacks in the coming days in areas where oil is extracted. A bomb threat called into a BP PLC facility in Indiana that had helped send oil prices higher Friday turned out to be a hoax, authorities said.
The Labor Department said the unemployment rate fell to 4.4% last month from 4.6% in September, easing some concerns that the economy has slowed too quickly. For more than a week, investors have been nervous about the strength of the economy following a stream of disappointing data. While Wall Street wants growth to cool so the threat of inflation will dissipate and the
Federal Reserve can cut interest rates, a precipitous slowdown could slice into consumer spending and corporate profits.
Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist and director of asset allocation for Trusco Capital Management, said the employment figures suggest the economy has more power than expected going into the holiday spending season but warned that the strength could make the Fed uneasy. “Investors have to digest the notion that the Fed is going to remain poised to lift interest rates as we go into 2007.”
Though the 92,000 new jobs last month fell short of the 125,000 economists expected, figures for August and September were revised upward. October was the third straight month of decline for the unemployment rate.