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 is 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 the 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 and moved money into lower-risk investments. Energy stocks were among the hardest hit after the price of oil fell $4 to $98.49 a barrel on worries that demand would drop because of a weakening world economy. It was the first time oil has dropped below $100 since Feb. 13.
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.
For the week, the S&P lost 2.4 percent, the Nasdaq 3.7 percent.
Investors are on edge about Europe once again as France and Greece both hold elections over the weekend. In France socialist candidate Francois Hollande has a chance to unseat incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been at the forefront of fashioning Europe’s efforts to prevent its share currency from collapsing.
The late slump in the week was a stark contrast to Monday, when the Dow closed at its highest level in more than four years, propelled by a report that showed a pickup in manufacturing. All that became a distant memory after a slew of poor economic reports were released in the rest of the week.
After the price of oil fell, energy company stocks turned lower in response. Southwestern Energy Co. fell 7 percent and Marathon Oil Corp. fell 3 percent.
In other news:
WARNACO GROUP: It dropped more than 6 percent after the clothing maker lowered its 2012 forecast and said that its first-quarter net income fell, hurt by the weak European economy.
AON CORP.: It fell almost 6 percent after the insurance broker reported first-quarter net income fell 3 percent due to higher costs and unfavorable currency exchange rates.
LINKEDIN: It rose 7 percent after announcing late Thursday that its first-quarter profit more than doubled, topping expectations. The social networking company also announced an acquisition.
TILLY’S INC.: It climbed 8 percent in the clothing retailer’s debut on the New York Stock Exchange. Tilly’s sells surf-inspired and casual West Coast-styled clothing and accessories.
EINSTEIN NOAH: It soared 19 percent after the owner of bagel chain Noah’s Bagels said it is considering strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the company.