Stocks Post Biggest Weekly Decline in 2012
US stocks had a disppointing week as worries about the euro zone and the jobs front made investors hesitant to jump in.
The last session of the week on Thursday was lackluster as the major indexes ended largely unchanged after suffering some major volatility earleir in the week. Volatility may return on Monday as markets digest the latest employment numbers.
Those figures, released on Good Friday when equity markets were closed, showed a 120,000 gain in nonfarm payrolls, well below the 203,000 expected. It was the first big disappointment on the jobs front in months.
The unemployment rate, however, declined to 8.2 percent. (CNBC Explains: Payroll vs. Unemployment Rate)
Already for the shortened week all three major averages logged their worst decline this year.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 14.61, or 0.11 percent, to close at 13,060.14, declining for a third-straight session, led by Alcoa and GE .
The S&P 500 erased 0.88 points, or 0.06 percent, to finish at 1,398.08. The Nasdaq added 12.41, or 0.40 percent, to end at 3,080.50.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, ended above 16.
For the week, the Dow tumbled 1.15 percent, the S&P fell 0.74 percent, and the Nasdaq slid 0.36 percent. Cisco was the biggest weekly laggard on the Dow, while Merck edged higher.
Most key S&P sectors ended lower for the week, led by energy, while techs squeezed out a small gain.
Markets were pressured for most of the week after minutes from the Fed's latest meeting indicated that policymakers toned down the likelihoodfor further quantitative easing.
“The Fed is being as accommodative as they can and unless the economy pulls back, I don’t see them doing anything more,” said John Fox, co-manager of the FAM Value Fund. “But we’ve been on the right path—the last two pieces to the recovery puzzle are jobs and housing and both are showing signs of improvement.”
Fox added that fundamentals "still remain good" and expects corporate earnings to "continue to grow" this year.
Weekly claims for unemployment benefits fell by 6,000 in the last week, to a seasonally adjusted 357,000, according to the Labor Department. And the number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms fell to its lowest level in 10 months.
Adding to market jitters throughout the week, new signs emerged in the euro zone that the debt-ridden region may see another recession. Sentiment was further dampened by Spain and France's poor bond auctions.
Separately, the Bank of England left key interest rates and the target for its bond-buying program unchanged.
Meanwhile, Facebook's stock will list under the Nasdaqunder the ticker symbol "FB," ending a tense courting process between the company, the NYSE and Nasdaq. Nasdaq shares gained following the news, while NYSE Euronext declined.
Apple edged higher after Jefferies raised its price target on the firmto $800 from $699. On an interesting note, Apple's shares briefly edged past Google's $632 a share for the first time. Still, Apple's market cap remains significantly higher than Google's.
Most retailers, including Target , Macy's , Limited and Gap posted solid gainsin March, helped by the warm weather that prompted customers to purchase seasonal goods sooner than usual.
Among earnings, Constellation Brands plunged to lead the S&P 500 laggards after the wine company handed in a full-year earnings forecast that missed expectations.
Bed Bath & Beyond rallied to lead the S&P 500 gainers after the retailer posted results that topped expectations. In addition, at least five brokerages raised their price targets on the firm.
—Follow JeeYeon Park on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC—
On Tap Next Week:
MONDAY: Bernanke speaks
TUESDAY: NFIB small biz optimism index, wholesale trade, Atlanta Fed pres speaks, 3-yr note auction, Minneapolis Fed pres speaks; Earnings from Alcoa and interim results from Chevron
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage apps, import & export prices, Kansas City Fed pres speaks, oil inventories, Boston Fed pres speaks, 10-yr note auction, Fed's Beige Book, St. Louis Fed pres speaks, Carnival shareholders meeting; Earnings from Progressive
THURSDAY: International trade, jobless claims, PPI, Philadelphia Fed pres speaks, 30-yr bond auction, Minneapolis Fed pres speaks; Earnings from Rite Aid, Google
FRIDAY: CPI, consumer sentiment, Bernanke speaks; Earnings from JPMorgan, Wells Fargo
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