NEW YORK — Stocks plunged Friday after the government reported that hiring slowed sharply last month. The report confirmed investors' fears that the U.S. economic recovery may be faltering.
The losses in the market were widespread. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 168 points and the Nasdaq composite had its worst day since Nov. 9. Both the Nasdaq and Standard & Poor's 500 index closed out their worst weeks of the year. The Dow had its second-worst.
The dollar and U.S. Treasury prices rose as investors dumped risky assets. Energy stocks were among the hardest hit after the price of oil fell below $100 a barrel for the first time since February. Only one of the 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 rose, utilities, which investors tend to buy when they're nervous about the economy.
“The jobs numbers were a disappointment,” said Phil Orlando, chief equity strategist at Federated Investors.
It was the third straight daily loss for the Dow, but it's too early to know if it's the start of a correction in the market. Even after its 1.4 percent decline this week, the Dow is still up 6.7 percent this year.
Investors are on edge about Europe once again as France and Greece both hold elections over the weekend. In France the socialist candidate Francois Hollande has a chance to unseat the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been at the forefront of Europe's efforts to prevent its shared currency from collapsing.