Stocks have taken an unwelcome turn to end the week on mixed feelings over today's jobs report. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) had lost 121 points as of 2:30 p.m. EDT, with nearly all of the blue-chip index's member stocks falling on the day. Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT ) was the Dow's No. 2 loser (behind Visa), with investors pulling back despite recent optimism over the tech stock. Outside the Dow, big biotech's Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN ) has dropped on disappointment over a clinical trial failure. Let's catch up on what you need to know.
Optimism and missed expectations in the jobs report
First, the bad news about the Labor Department employment report: The 192,000 new jobs gained in March were below economists' average projection for creation of about 200,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate did not budge from its 6.7% mark. That was it for the disappointment, however, as key data showed optimism for the U.S. economy's outlook. The Labor Department increased its total new-jobs count for January and February by 37,000. The labor force participation rate also climbed to 63.2%, a six-month high. The private sector accounted for all of March's gains, with no government hiring, a sign that businesses are feeling comfortable enough about the economy's direction to take on more workers.
That hasn't been much help to Microsoft's stock, which has declined by 3% to fall to the bottom of the Dow. Despite the day's pessimism over the tech stock, however, there's no reason for investors to be feeling concerned about Microsoft. In fact, the company's recent momentum makes it look as strong as ever: The announcement of Office for iPad has shaken up the software giant's presence in mobile and proved to be a lightning success, with more than 12 million downloads so far.
That's not all for Microsoft, either. The company is still pushing hard into the phone business following its acquisition of Nokia's (NYSE: NOK ) mobile division, and Microsoft recently showed off its new Windows 8.1 phone sporting its Apple-rivaling digital personal assistant, Cortana. It's unclear whether that will help spark a serious competitor for Apple and its dominant line of iPhones, but it shows a renewed commitment on Microsoft's part to pushing into the lucrative mobile sector with fresh ideas and innovation. For Microsoft investors, who have dealt with questions over the company's path over the past few years, new CEO Satya Nadella's rise has sparked new hopes for this stock's future.
Elsewhere on the markets today, Amgen's stock has fallen by more than 2% after the company's promising melanoma therapy T-Vec failed to meet a secondary endpoint in a recent clinical trial. While T-Vec and Amgen did nail the late-stage study's primary endpoint of shrinking patient tumors in its patient population, the drug failed to improve overall survival rates. Earlier study results released last June showed T-Vec improving survival by 21%, so today's results are a downer for investors -- and have some analysts questioning the drug's commercialization potential. T-Vec still has the potential to become a blockbuster drug with peak sales estimates around $1 billion, and the therapy's success in hitting its primary endpoint is a good sign. But keep an eye on Amgen's next moves with its strong pipeline contender after the survival rate miss.
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