It was one of the worst weeks on Wall Street so far this year. Ahead of key elections in Europe that threatened to derail advocates of tough austerity measures in France and Greece, U.S. payroll data showed that hiring in the U.S. slowed for a third straight month, dimming hopes that the economy was turning the corner. The S&P 500 dropped 2.44% or 34.26 points to 1,369.10, its worst weekly performance of the year. The Nasdaq Composite index fell 3.77% or 112.86 points to close at 2,956.34, its worst weekly decline since November, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 1.44% or 190.04 points to 13,038.27. The Philadelphia Gold and Silver index was off 5.46% or 9.05 points at 156.76. Prices for crude oil dipped below US$100 per barrel to US$98.49 on May 4 and were down 6% for the full week, ratcheting fears higher that a worsening economy will sap demand for energy.
Unusually mild winter weather and decade-low natural gas prices contributed to the fall in the fortunes of coal miners Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources. Shares of Arch Coal—the most actively traded stock of the week— dropped US$1.38 to US$8.08 per share after releasing disappointing first-quarter results. Net income in the first quarter reached US$1.2 million or $0.01 per diluted share, compared with net income of US$55.6 million, or $0.34 per diluted share in the first quarter of 2011. Alpha Natural Resources fell US$1.42 to close the week at US$14.45 per share after reporting a first quarter net loss of US$29.1 million or US$0.13 per diluted share compared to net income of US$49.8 million or US$0.41 per diluted share last year.
Compass Minerals posted the largest gain of the week, climbing US$1.22 to close at US$76.68 per share on no news. In late April Compass reported net earnings of US$39.9 million or US$1.19 per diluted share, compared with US$56.5 million or US$1.69 per diluted share in the first quarter of 2011. The results included losses caused by a tornado that struck the company’s salt operations in Ontario last August. Excluding the effects of the tornado, the company estimated that first quarter net earnings would have been US$49.5 million or US$1.48 per diluted share. The mild winter curtailed de-icing demand and limited the company’s salt sales to US$254.3 million, down from US$332.4 million in the 2011 quarter.
Pacific Booker Minerals jumped US$0.92 to US$13.77 per share on no news. The company is developing its advanced stage Morrison porphyry copper/gold/molybdenum deposit in central British Columbia.