Stocks post fifth straight week of losses

(AP) - Evidence is piling up that the economic recovery has lost some of its vigor. That has deflated a stock market rally and pushed indexes down for five straight weeks, the longest losing streak since mid-2008.

So, what's next? Don't hold out hope for more help from the government, analysts say. Another round of stimulus spending isn't in the cards, the Fed has already slashed interest rates near zero and has said it will end its bond-buying program on schedule at the end of this month.

With high gas prices crimping consumer spending and companies still reluctant to hire, investors may have to settle for a stock market and an economic recovery that plod slowly along.

"The market is clearly getting used to uneven economic data," says Jeff Kleintop, chief market strategist at LPL Financial. "We've moved from a recovery phase to a more modest pace of economic growth."

A weak employment report spurred another stock sell-off Friday, two days after the Dow Jones industrial average had its worst drop in nearly a year. The Dow lost 97.29 points, or 0.8 percent, to close at 12,151.26.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 12.78, or 1 percent, to 1,300.16. The Nasdaq composite fell 40.53, or 1.5 percent, to 2,732.78.

Each index lost 2.3 percent for the week. The last time there was a longer decline in the S&P 500, the market's most widely used benchmark, occurred during the six weeks ending July 11, 2008, before the worst days of the financial crisis.

Despite the market's recent slump, analysts say there are still plenty of bright spots in the economy including business spending and bank lending. The market could still manage to struggle higher this year, Kleintop says, but the climb from here will likely be a long and slow. Picture a jagged valley of dips and steps, not a straight shot up or down.

Investors will probably have to scale back their expectations for profits, much as economists from JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and other banks recently lowered their estimates for economic growth.

The Dow plunged 280 points Wednesday, its worst drop in nearly a year, on a weak payrolls report from ADP and the biggest decline in a key manufacturing index since 1984. That combined with other weak readings on the economy prompted analysts to lower their projections for growth in 2011.


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