( dpa ) - US stocks fell Friday after the Labour Department reported 63,000 jobs were lost in February, the largest month-on- month drop in five years.
The unexpected loss in jobs - though the unemployment rate fell to 4.8 per cent from 4.9 per cent in January - fuelled speculation that the US economy may already be in recession and overshadowed a new Federal Reserve plan boosting emergency lending to banks suffering from the ongoing credit crisis.
Responding to the job data, President George W Bush insisted a 150-billion-dollar stimulus package signed last month would boost consumer spending in the sagging economy.
"I know this is a difficult time for our economy, but we recognized the problem early, and provided the economy with a booster shot," Bush said.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped below the 12,000 mark, led lower by energy and mining stocks as crude oil prices in New York fell back from an all-time high.
But the Fed emergency plan, totalling as much as 200 billion dollars in loans to struggling banks, sparked a rally in financial shares, which have generally led stock declines in recent months.
The blue-chip Dow fell 146.70 points, or 1.22 per cent, to 11,893.69. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 10.97 points, or 0.84 per cent, to 1,293.37. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 8.01 points, or 0.36 per cent, to 2,212.49.
All major stock indices were down for the week, the Dow shedding 3 per cent, the S& P 2.8 per cent and the Nasdaq 2.6 per cent.
The US currency climbed against the euro to 65.11 euro cents from 65.02 euro cents on Thursday, and rose against the Japanese currency to 102.66 yen from 102.57 yen.
Gold prices dropped 2.90 dollars to 974.20 dollars per fine ounce.