U.S. stocks made modest gains on Wall Street Friday, despite a weak employment report showing many more Americans lost jobs in October. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 59 points, two-thirds of one percent, to 9,323. The broader Standard and Poor's 500 index was up three points. The tech-weighted Nasdaq composite was down, but only by less than a point.
Investors had a muted reaction to news that the U.S. government has reached an anti-trust settlement with software giant Microsoft. The agreement would allow other software companies to put their products on Microsoft's Windows operating system.
Microsoft shares lost less than one percent. But they gained more than six percent Thursday in anticipation of the agreement.
Meanwhile, soaring unemployment in the United States since the September 11 terrorist attacks did not have a dramatic impact on the markets. Analysts say investors focused beyond the dismal present to an economic recovery next year.
Patrick Boyle, an investment strategist with Credit Suisse First Boston, says the market held steady in anticipation of another interest rate cut when the U.S. central bank, led by chairman Alan Greenspan, meets on Tuesday.
"As the economic news gets negative, more negative the last couple of days, they figure that Greenspan is going to go from cutting 25 basis points to cutting 50 basis points on Tuesday," he said. "So that's the pop in the market the last couple of days."
Despite what analysts consider a respectable showing by the markets toward the end of the week, the Dow Industrials finished the week more than two percent lower, while the Nasdaq lost just over one percent.
Not all experts were troubled by the U.S. jobless rate, which now stands at 5.4 percent. Economist Diane Swonk sees it as a temporary setback, a lot of it due to the economic fall-out from the September attacks.
"As much as these numbers are alarming on the surface, the consumer has not been fully de-railed," she said. "There will be some further cuts in payrolls and some further problems with the consumer in the next couple of months. But I think this really was an event-triggered situation, has dramatic effects because it was related to an event. And equally it could just as quickly have unwinding effects as we get into 2002."
Economic numbers almost always get back to what the consumer feels. Consumer spending is a key ingredient of U.S. economic growth. Some experts say Americans are still able to spend, but they choose to hold back at this point because of all the uncertainty associated with the sudden emergence of terrorism on U.S. soil.