U.S. stock indexes again turned mixed early Friday, as the Nasdaq and the Dow fell back despite April payroll data that cruised past the Street’s expectations.
The Nasdaq reversed to a 0.1% decline, the S&P 500 defended a fractional gain. The Dow Jones industrial average shed 0.2%. Volume in the stock market today was running lower on both major exchanges.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics said nonfarm payrolls added 211,000 jobs in April vs. expectations for 185,000. Revisions to earlier months were mixed. The March number was revised downward from 98,000 to 79,000. But the February number was revised upward from 219,000 to 232,000. The net effect to revisions was only a 6,000 subtraction.
The unemployment rate sank to 4.4% from 4.6%, but the participation rate edged down from 63% to 62.9%. The participation rate in the economy has stayed stubbornly low throughout the economic recovery. The 4.4% reading on joblessness was the lowest since May 2007, seven months before the recession started.
Blue chips were about evenly split between gainers and losers. IBM (IBM) posted the index’s biggest loss, gapping down 2.6% on news that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) slashed a third of its position in Big Blue. Buffett pointed to competitive concerns. The news stirred speculation that CEO Ginni Rometti may have worn out her welcome. Rometti has been CEO for almost five years. The company has yet to post an annual revenue gain during her reign.
Managed health care provider Cigna (CI) gapped up 2% in fast trade, scoring a 52-week high. The company reported a 19% gain in earnings, topping the Street’s consensus view by 13%. Cigna also raised earnings guidance for the full year. Revenue rose 5% to $10.34 billion, beating the consensus view by about 2%.
Last week, a U.S. court nixed Anthem’s (ANTM) bid to merge with Cigna. Anthem is appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Baker Hughes will release oil rig data at 1 p.m. ET.