US futures drop as jobs report comes up short

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stock market futures are plunging after the Labor Department reported that the economy added just 88,000 jobs in March, the lowest gain in nine months.

Dow Jones industrial average futures slid 135 points to 14,396. Nasdaq 100 futures dropped 33 points to 2,752. S&P 500 futures slid 17 points to 1,537.50.

The number of jobs added was well below the 195,000 economists had predicted, and reflects a sharp slowdown in hiring after several months of strength. The slowdown may signal that the economy is heading into a weak spring

The unemployment rate dropped to 7.6 percent, but only because more people stopped looking for work. The percentage of Americans working or looking for jobs fell to 63.3 percent in March, the lowest in nearly 34 years.

The report weighed on world markets as well.

Despite positive news out of Germany, where a report showed industrial orders rebounded in February, a promising sign for first-quarter growth, Germany’s DAX fell 1.9 percent to 7,663.

The news from France was not as promising. The French finance minister warned that the country will barely grow this year. The main market index, the CAC all slid 2 percent to 3,651. Britain’s FTSE 100 dropped 1.7 percent to 6,234.14.

Earlier Japan’s Nikkei hit a four-year high, boosted by enthusiasm for that nation’s new central bank policies. But worries about bird flu in China and saber-rattling in North Korea weighed on other Asian markets.

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