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US markets settle lower after anemic jobs report

Extending their losses for fifth straight sessions, the US markets settled lower on Friday after a disappointing jobs report from US and a slump in Chinese exports, the world's second-largest economy reported a 20% drop in February exports after a 9.1% gain in January, added to concerns about slowing global growth.  Employment in the US showed only a slight increase in the month of February, according to a report released by the Labor Department. The Labor Department said non-farm payroll employment edged up by 20,000 jobs in February after jumping by an upwardly revised 311,000 jobs in January. Street had expected employment to increase by about 180,000 jobs compared to the spike of 304,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month. The much weaker than expected job growth in February represented the worst month since the loss of 18,000 jobs in September of 2017, when employment was impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Despite the much weaker than expected job growth, the unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent in February from 4.0 percent in January. The unemployment rate had been expected to dip to 3.9 percent.

Meanwhile, after reporting a steep drop in new residential construction in the US in the previous month, the Commerce Department released a report showing housing starts rebounded by much more than anticipated in the month of January. The report said housing starts soared by 18.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.230 million in January after plunging by 14.0 percent to a revised rate of 1.037 million in December. Street had expected housing starts to jump by 11 percent to a rate of 1.197 million from the 1.078 million originally reported for the previous month. Single-family housing stars surged up by 25.1 percent to a rate of 926,000 in January, while multi-family starts climbed by 2.4 percent to a rate of 304,000. The world's second-largest economy reported a 20% drop in February exports after a 9.1% gain in January.

Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 22.99 points or 0.09 percent to 25450.24, S&P 500 plunged 5.86 points or 0.21 percent to 2743.07 and Nasdaq was down by 13.32 points or 0.18 percent to 7408.14.

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