Mixed Employment Numbers Keep Market in Neutral

The excitement of yesterday's improved jobs numbers and European Central Bank plan was quickly doused with cold water this morning when U.S. Department of Labor jobs numbers didn't live up to expectations. Instead of adding 120,000 jobs, as economists expected, the economy only added 96,000 jobs in the month of August, adding to fear that the economic recovery is stalled out. On the bright side, however, unemployment fell to 8.1%, likely because older workers are leaving the workforce.

The good news is that the bad jobs number didn't send the market into a tailspin this time around. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) is currently down 0.05%, while the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  ) is up 0.29%. The report didn't live up to expectations, but a miss of 24,000 is well within the survey's margin of error, so it didn't shock investors this morning. We can also see just how low expectations are right now for a real recovery.

There was very mixed news out of other corners of the market as well. Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) lowered guidance for the quarter and pulled full-year guidance, sending its shares down 3.7%. But on the positive side, construction-related stocks like Alcoa (NYSE: AA  ) and Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) are up more than 2.6% on news that China would spend more than $100 billion on stimulus, highlighted by infrastructure projects.

The big asset-class winner of the day goes to gold, which rallied 2.1% on the economic doldrums. You will remember that gold was the big winner going through the financial crisis and resulting recession, and today's rally is reminiscent of that.

Investors can't seem to find a direction for the market at present, and today's job numbers didn't exactly answer anyone's questions. We're not growing fast enough to excite a rally, and we're not going backward, which might bring out the bears.

For the time being, it would be wise to stick with dividend stocks, three of which we've highlighted as long-term picks in a free report. Find out which stocks they are by clicking here.

Fool contributor Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of Intel. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Intel. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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