Investors Brace For Jobs Report

Stocks were once again on the defensive Thursday, as investors braced for what could be the worst U.S. jobs report in years.

Economists estimate on average that the U.S. economy lost 150,000 jobs in September due to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but the estimates range from roughly break-even to job losses of more than 300,000, leaving room for a big surprise to either side of the consensus estimate.

The report will be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time Friday.

Stocks finished off their worst levels Thursday as Federal Reserve officials once again reiterated their inflation concerns, but they ended the day with their fourth straight loss.

The Nasdaq fell 19 to 2084, the S&P 500 lost 5 to 1191, and the Dow declined 30 to 10,287. Volume rose to 2.79 billion shares on the NYSE, and 2.14 billion on the Nasdaq. Decliners led advancers 20-10 on the NYSE, and 19-10 on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 71% on the NYSE, and 70% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 34-165 on the NYSE, and 61-117 on the Nasdaq.

After the close, Accenture beat estimates and announced a dividend. UTStarcom plunged on a warning.

During the day, ATI climbed 7% after beating estimates.

Centra fell on plans to be acquired by Saba , while Check Point and Broadcom lost ground after announcing acquisitions of their own.

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