Stocks Drop Ahead of Jobs Report

Stocks finished near the lows of the day in volatile trading Thursday as investors waited for the government’s monthly jobs report Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 119.96 points, or 1.03%, to end at 11,493.57. The S&P 500 shed 14.47 points, or 1.19%, to end at 1,204.42 and the Nasdaq Composite lost 33.42 points, or 1.30%, to 2,546.04.

President Barack Obama will attempt re-election with an unemployment rate of 8.2%, the White House estimated Thursday as it laid out its economic forecasts.

Nearly one in five homeowners does not have enough insurance to rebuild his home if it is destroyed in a disaster, market research company J.D. Power said on Thursday in its annual survey of insurance customer satisfaction.

Car buyers shrugged off bad economic news and a major East Coast hurricane last month, lifting U.S. sales for most automakers. General Motors, Chrysler, Ford and Nissan reported surprisingly strong sales results on Thursday. Toyota and Honda, however, continued to be hurt by model shortages from the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Both reported large sales drops.

Gasoline is nearly the highest it’s ever been for this time of year.  The national average on Thursday was $3.629 per gallon. Benchmark oil rose 12 cents to finish at $88.93 per barrel in New York, while Brent crude lost 56 cents to end at $114.29 in London.

H&R Block Inc.(HRB) on Thursday reported a first-quarter loss of $175.1 million, or 57 cents a share, vs. a loss of $130.7 million, or 41 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue dipped to $267.6 million from $274.5 million, a year earlier.

The Federal Reserve on Thursday sanctioned Goldman Sachs (GS) over deficient practices involving residential mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure processing at its former subsidiary, Litton Loan Servicing LP, in what’s commonly referred to as the “robo-signing” scandal.

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