Investors’ Mini Freak Out – Morning Business Memo

Apr 9, 2012 7:07am

Stock market investors may be having a mini freak out over the lousy job numbers. Stock futures fell sharply this morning, reacting to Friday’s Labor Department employment report. The markets were closed on Good Friday when word came that only 120,000 new jobs were created in March. Analysts were expecting well over 200,000.

Blame it on the weather, says the economic research firm Macroadvisers. “We estimated that an unseasonably mild winter had been responsible for boosting the level of payroll employment in February by 72,000,” says the firm’s latest blog, which talks about a “weather-related drag on March payroll gains.”

The mild winter in most of the country might have changed consumer behavior with spring buying getting a very early start in February. Writes Ylan Q. Mui in The Washington Post:  ”For many people, that meant an early debut of open-toed shoes and dinners al fresco, and early mulching and spring cleaning. It also meant more jobs for construction workers and retail employees to keep pace with demand. Planalytics said demand for jumped 40 percent last month for lawn mowers, 17 percent for sun care and 5 percent for bottled water.”

It remains to be seen whether the March employment report was the start of a weaker jobs trend or merely an aberration.

Another rise in gas prices is expected today when the U.S. Energy Department releases its weekly report. Look for the nationwide price of regular to be just shy of $4 a gallon. But the weekly increase may be small, and later this month we could start to see a decline in prices. The April spike in prices is partially due to refineries reducing output to repair equipment and start making a cleaner, more expensive blend of gasoline for summer. Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service, says the built-in increase in prices is accentuated this year because of strong global demand, heightened tensions with Iran and a smattering of supply disruptions that have kept crude oil prices elevated for months. Output should rise soon, modestly easing prices.

About 40,000 AT&T landline workers are staying on the job this week without a contract, according to their union. The workers’ contracts expired over the weekend, raising the possibility of a strike. But the Communications Workers of America and AT&T Inc. say they’ll keep working on a new deal. At issue in the negotiations are job protection clauses and health care premiums and co-payments.

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio twitter.com/daviesabc

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