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Stocks finish a losing week, but Gap shares soar

Stocks finish a losing week, but Gap shares soar
An entrance to a Wall Street subway station in New York. (Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

Stocks ended slightly lower on Wall Street on Friday, giving the market its first weekly decline in a month.

The market edged up in early trading after a much anticipated report on September hiring showed decent gains. It quickly turned lower and remained down for the rest of the day. Suppliers of basic materials and industrial companies lost the most.

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The government reported that employers hired last month at a slower pace than forecast, but not slow enough to signal that the economy is in trouble. A much slower pace might have ruled out a widely anticipated interest rate hike later this year by the Federal Reserve.

Bonds were little changed on the news. The yield on 10-year Treasury notes slipped to 1.72% from 1.74%.

Real estate and phone companies continued to decline. Once favored by investors for their relative stability and steady dividends, they have become less attractive at the prospect of higher interest rates. Real estate companies lost 5% during the week, and phone companies slumped 3.8%.

"Everything that everyone had been buying for safety has gone down this week, and it's gone down big," said John Fox, chief investment officer of Fenimore Asset Management. "You have an unwinding of the low-rate trade."

On Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 28.01 points, or 0.2%, to 18,240.49. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slid 7.03 points, or 0.3%, to 2,153.74. The Nasdaq composite declined 14.45 points, or 0.3%, to 5,292.40.

Industrial companies were dragged down in part by Honeywell International, whose shares dropped 7.5% to $106.94 after it lowered its earnings forecast. The company in a press release cited lower shipments to aviation equipment makers and delays in its military and space businesses, among other things.

Most investors expect the Fed to raise rates in December. The central bank has held them near zero since 2008, a factor that many market watchers cite as a key driver of the seven-year bull run in stocks. Low interest rates make stocks appear relatively appealing compared with low-yielding bonds or CDs. They also make it easier for companies to borrow money to buy back their own stock.

"The world's largest economy looks to be sailing full steam ahead to a rate hike before the end of the year," said said Paul Sirani, chief market analyst at Xtrade.

Among stocks making big moves, Gap jumped 15% to $26.25 after reporting September sales results that showed growth at its Old Navy chain, which helped counter falling sales for its Gap and Banana Republic brands. Other retailers rose too.

Tyson Foods dived 9% to $67.75 after an analyst predicted a big drop in Tyson because of a lawsuit that accuses it and other companies of manipulating poultry prices.

Ruby Tuesday fell 7% to $2.34 after the restaurant chain reported a loss in its fiscal first quarter.

In currency markets, the British pound fell as much as 6% in a "flash crash" to its lowest level in more than three decades. It eventually rebounded to $1.2435, down from Thursday's $1.2605.

Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.6% in the wake of the pound's latest decline. A lower currency could make British exports more competitive and boost the value of foreign earnings when brought back to Britain.

The euro rose to $1.1180. The dollar fell to 103.07 yen.

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U.S. benchmark crude oil fell 63 cents to $49.81 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 58 cents to $51.93 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.48 a gallon, heating oil fell 2 cents to $1.58 a gallon and natural gas jumped 14 cents to $3.19 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold fell $1.10 to $1,251.90 an ounce, silver rose 4 cents to $17.38 an ounce and copper rose less than 1 cent to $2.16 a pound.

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UPDATES:

2:35 a.m.: This article was updated with closing prices and additional details.

8:55 a.m.: This article was updated with recent prices and additional details.

This article was originally published at 7:10 a.m.

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