Futures Sell Off as Jobs Report Widely Misses Expectations

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U.S. stock-index futures tumbled on Friday as traders panned a considerably weaker-than-expected build in American nonfarm payrolls.

Today's Markets

As of 8:37 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures dropped 136 points to 14396, S&P 500 futures dipped 16.8 points to 1537 and Nasdaq 100 futures slid 29 points to 2756.

The Labor Department said nonfarm payrolls ticked up by 88,000 in March from February, widely missing expectations of an increase of 200,000. The unemployment rate dropped to the lowest level since December 2008 to 7.6% from 7.7%.February’s nonfarm payroll increase was revised up to 268,000 from a previously reported 236,000.

Digging into the report, the private sector tacked on 95,000 jobs, while the government shed 7,000. The labor force participation rate, which tracks the proportion of the population that is currently employed or seeking employment, tumbled to 63.3% -- the lowest level since 1979.

Traders immediately shifted into safe-haven assets on the heels of the report. Indeed, the 10-year Treasury yield slid 0.06 percentage point to 1.705% -- the lowest level since December.

The labor market has been showing signs of improvement in recent months, but government and private economists have said the rate remains considerably lower than where it should be to support robust economic growth. Indeed, the Federal Reserve has been pushing hard to accelerate job growth -- keeping interest rates at record lows and buying vast amounts of bonds.

Meanwhile, the situation in North Korea remained perilous.

"North Korea has overtaken Iran as the year's biggest potential flashpoint," Tina Fordham, an analyst at Citigroup wrote in a report to clients. "The current imbroglio highlights the current state-of-play in Asian geopolitics."

The country has repeatedly threatened to attack the U.S. and its neighbor, South Korea. The Korean Armistice agreement was signed in 1953, which halted the Korean War via  a ceasefire, but according to Citi's calculations, there have been 200 incidents since then that have resulted in casualties.

Brenda Kelly, a market analyst at IG in London, said that while the situation there isn't in the forefront of traders' minds, it's "hanging over our heads."

In commodities, oil and gasoline prices were to the downside. The benchmark U.S. crude oil contract dipped 91 cents, or 0.91%, to $92.44 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline fell 0.16% to $2.894 a gallon. In metals, gold climbed $16.40, or 1%, to $1,568 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 sold off by 1.4% to 2584, the English FTSE 100 slid 1.4% to 6258 and the German DAX plummeted 1.7% to 7685.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 soared 1.6% to 12834 and the Chinese Hang Seng sold off by 2.7% to 21726.