Disappointing March jobs report sends futures lower
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stock futures closed lower on Friday in brief, holiday-thinned trading after a much weaker-than-expected report on U.S. job growth for March.
Trading volumes were light because of the Good Friday holiday and market closings in Europe. S&P 500 futures fell 1.2 percent, suggesting a weak open on Monday as the cash market is closed Friday.
U.S. payrolls grew by 120,000 in March, worse than the forecasted gain of 203,000 jobs. The unemployment rate dipped to 8.2 percent, down from 8.3 percent in February.
The weak payrolls report could renew hopes for more monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve. This week's release of minutes from its March meeting suggested less of an appetite for more stimulus despite committee members expressing worries about the sluggish pace of U.S. growth.
U.S. equities have rallied sharply in recent months, gaining nearly 30 percent since early October to push the S&P 500 near four-year highs. The market has stalled in the last few weeks as investors question the swiftness of the gains and whether economic data is strong enough to warrant higher stock prices.
"This is going to keep the Fed in easy-policy mode," said Sean Incremona, economist at 4cast Ltd in New York.
"They're going to want to see a step toward 300,000 (job gains) before they start to think about seeing a stronger outlook for the economy."
S&P 500 futures fell 16.20 points to 1374. Nasdaq 100 futures dropped 1.1 percent, or 31.25 points, to 2722.75 in thin trading. Dow futures dropped 137 points, or 1.1 percent, to 12,841.
Earnings will come to the fore next week, with bellwethers Google Inc (GOOG.O) and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) expected to report results.
The S&P 500's loss for the week of 0.7 percent was its biggest weekly decline of the year as yields on Spain's debt continued to march higher and its equity market plumbed lows not seen since the height of the euro zone's crisis last year.
On Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI dropped 14.61 points, or 0.11 percent, to 13,060.14 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX dipped 0.88 of a point, or 0.06 percent, to 1,398.08. But the Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC gained 12.41 points, or 0.40 percent, to 3,080.50.
(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)
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