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S&P suffers worst week of the year

By Edward Krudy,

NEW YORK — Stocks mostly dipped Thursday, and the S&P ended its worst week of the year as growing pressure on Europe’s debt markets revived concerns about the region’s financial stability.

The concerns about the euro zone, particularly Spain, overshadowed what is expected to be a solid U.S. jobs report Friday.

The Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index slipped, declining for a third straight day. But Nasdaq advanced modestly, buoyed by retailer Bed Bath & Beyond. The stock jumped nearly 10 percent to a lifetime high a day after the company’s quarterly results beat analysts’ forecasts.

The S&P 500’s loss for the week, 0.7 percent, was its biggest weekly decline of the year as yields on Spain’s debt continued to march higher and its equity market plumbed lows not seen since the height of the euro zone’s crisis last year.

Economists expect the nonfarm payroll report due Friday will show that the U.S. economy added 203,000 jobs in March. That would represent a fourth-straight month of solid job creation, marking the longest stretch of monthly employment gains topping 200,000 since 1999.

The cash U.S. stock market is closed for the Good Friday holiday when the payroll data is set to be released; CME futures will trade for an abbreviated 45-minute session. The U.S. bond market will be open until noon.

The Dow dropped 14.61 points, or 0.11 percent, to 13,060.14 at Thursday’s close. The S&P dipped 0.88 of a point, or 0.06 percent, to 1,398.08. But Nasdaq gained 12.41 points, or 0.40 percent, to 3,080.50.

The recent losses for stocks are slight, but traders are becoming increasingly concerned about the potential for a more stringent retreat heading into the seasonally weak period starting in May.

“Over the last couple of days, a small sense of trepidation came back in that the market is able to correct, and people are kind of reevaluating their books, saying, ‘Where do I want to be positioned over the next three- to six-month horizon now that you’ve had such a great past six months?’ ” said Seth Setrakian, co-head of U.S. equities at First New York Securities.

Some retailers’ shares advanced after the companies reported March same-store sales that topped forecasts as mild weather and an early Easter spurred consumers to shop for summer clothes and other seasonal items. The stronger-than-expected March sales prompted some retailers to raise their profit expectations for the quarter.

Shares of TJX , which operates the T.J.Maxx and Marshalls low-price chains, gained 2.4 percent to $40.29. The S&P retail index advanced 0.7 percent.

At the close, Bed Bath & Beyond was up 8.5 percent at $71.85 — near its all-time high of $72.75 hit earlier in the day.

For March, the Thomson Reuters Same Store Sales Index registered a robust gain of 4.3 percent, exceeding the forecast of a 3.5 percent rise. Excluding drug stores, the index rose 6.8 percent, well above the monthly same-store sales gains of 3 percent to 5 percent throughout 2011, according to Thomson Reuters.

— Reuters

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