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Dow plunges as job gains raise rate hike fears

Stocks fell hard Friday as Wall Street feared a strong jobs report is likely to speed up the Federal Reserve’s rate-hike timetable. In a sign of strength in the labor market, the government reported a better-than-expected 295,000 jobs were created in February and that the unemployment rate fell more than expected to 5.5%.the-percentage-of-americans-playing-the-stock-market-is-at-an-all-time-low

Economists had forecast 240,000 new jobs in February, compared to 257,000 in January. Both headline numbers topped expectations. The economy has now produced more than 200,000-plus jobs for 12 months in a row. The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 279 points, or 1.5%, to 17,857. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 30 points, or 1.4%, to 2071. The Nasdaq composite fell 56 points, or 1.1%, to 4927.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury is skyrocketing, as it jumped to 2.25% from 2.12% Thursday. Oil sold on the U.S. market fell 2.8% to below $50 a barrel. Big news on the Apple front — it’s joining the elite, 30-company Dow Jones industrial average on March 19. Shares rose 0.2% to $126.60. The weakness in the stock market suggests that some investors might be pricing in a June interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve. Recently, Wall Street had pushed the Fed’s so-called “lift-off” date to September.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 was up 1.2% to 18,971, while the Hong Kong Hang Seng fell 0.1% to 24,164. European stocks are also mixed. Germany’s DAX is 0.4% higher. France’s CAC 40 is flat, and Britain’s FTSE 100 is off 0.7%.