Why Today's Jobs Report Couldn't Lift the Dow

Despite the addition of nearly 300,000 jobs last month, the blue chips still fell. Elsewhere, Madison Square Garden dropped 6.6%, and Rite Aid gained once again.

May 2, 2014 at 10:00PM

A blowout April jobs report kicked off the market morning with a bang, but that wasn't enough to propel stocks higher by the end of the day, as all three major indexes closed down. Concerns about escalating violence in Ukraine forced a sell-off in the late morning as The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) fell the most, losing 46 points, or 0.3%, with pharma stocks pacing the decline. AstraZeneca once again rejected a takeover bid by Pfizer for $106 billion, as AstraZeneca's board called the bid "inadequate." Outside the Dow, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both gave up 0.1%.

The headline figure in the jobs report was impressive, as the Department of Labor reported nonfarm payrolls grew by 288,000 last month, the largest gain since January 2012, while the unemployment rate fell from 6.7% all the way down to 6.3%. Both figures were well ahead of estimates -- economists had expected job additions of 210,000 and unemployment of 6.6%. Still, the market seemed concerned by a lack of improvement in wages, which held flat against estimates of a 0.1% gain and, more importantly, a massive drop in the labor force participation rate, which fell to 62.8%, matching a 36-year low.

During April, 806,000 Americans dropped out of the labor force, meaning they were no longer working or looking for work. The drop in participation rate was befuddling to economists, as rising employment should coax those who had given up on looking for work back into the job market. Job additions in February and March were revised higher by 36,000, indicating job growth during winter was stronger than believed to be. Despite the drop in the participation rate, the addition of nearly 300,000 jobs is a definite plus for the economy, and should help drive the recovery further, starting with consumer spending.

Moving markets today was Madison Square Garden (NASDAQ:MSG), which fell 6.6% after reporting earnings this morning. The parent of the New York Knicks and Rangers, and partner media enterprises, missed earnings estimates of $0.40 with a per-share profit of $0.24 due, in part, to the postponement of a Rockettes' production, which was scheduled to run from late March to early May. Still, revenues improved 11.3%, to $459 million, better than the consensus at $436.3 million, indicating that this was likely a one-time problem. Factoring out costs from the postponement and executive management transition expenses, operating income was nearly flat, and EPS from the quarter a year ago was $0.49. Looking at the quarter as a one-time miss, today's drop could be a solid buying opportunity.

Elsewhere, shares of Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD) chugged 2.2% higher as the company reported same-store sales increasing 5% in April, though part of that jump was attributable to a shift in the timing of the Easter holiday. Still, pharmacy sales moved up 5.2%, and the completion of the Obamacare enrollment period should bring more business for Rite Aid and its pharmacy peers. Fellow drugstore CVS Caremark gained 1% on its earnings report today.

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Jeremy Bowman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Madison Square Garden. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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