The Dow's 395-point drubbing is its biggest one-day point loss in 15 months, after crude prices' largest one-day advance ever and a poor jobs report.
By Alexandra Twin, CNNMoney.com senior writer
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks tanked Friday, with the Dow industrials shedding 395 points, after oil prices spiked more than $11 a barrel and the May jobs report showed a big jump in the unemployment rate.
Bond prices surged, as investors sought safety in government debt, while the dollar tumbled versus the yen and euro.
The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) lost 395 points, or 3.1%, its biggest one-day decline on both a point and percentage basis since February of 2007, at the start of the subprime mortgage crisis.
The broader Standard & Poor's 500 (SPX) index lost 3.1%, while the Nasdaq composite (COMP) lost 3%. Both saw their biggest one-day declines on both a point and a percentage basis in more than four months.
The unemployment rate shot up to 5.5% in May from 5.0% in April, the government reported, marking the biggest one-month surge in over 20 years. The report was a clear indication that the economy could be in a recession after all, despite some recent bets that one could be narrowly avoided.
As rattling as the unemployment number was, the stock market was even more spooked by the spike in oil prices, said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management.
"I think more than anything, it's the shock of oil prices being up this substantially two days in a row," Stone said.
Crude jumped more than $16 in two sessions, with prices settling up $10.75 to $138.54 a barrel Friday on the weak dollar and in response to a Morgan Stanley note that said oil could hit $150 a barrel by July 4.
The spike exacerbated worries about consumer spending, already stretched as gas prices near a national average of $4 a gallon.
"You're definitely seeing the fear trade today, with the dollar down, commodity prices up and bonds rallying," Stone said.
Stocks could be vulnerable to further declines in the week ahead, after the S&P 500 closed below a key technical level that has previously given a floor to the selling. Traders said stocks could be in danger of moving back to the lows of March and January, which were seen as something of a bottom after months of stock declines.
Jobs market deteriorates: The unemployment rate surged to 5.5% from 5.0%, beating forecasts for a rise to 5.1% and showing the biggest one-month jump since 1986.
The spike really caught people by surprise, said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group. He said the report makes it clear that at least for so-called Main Street and the labor market, "we are in a recession, regardless of how we economists define it."
He was referring to the fact that GDP has been limping higher and the economy has not been officially declared to be in a recession by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
However, with non-farm payrolls dropping for a fifth consecutive month, it feels to many people like it's a recession, he said. Employers cut 49,000 from their payrolls, the report showed, versus forecasts for a decline of 60,000.
Dollar falls, oil spikes: The dollar continued its slide versus the euro on the weak jobs report and comments Thursday that the European Central Bank could potentially raise interest rates. The dollar also tanked versus the yen.
The dollar's decline contributed to a rally in dollar-traded commodity prices, with U.S. light crude oil for July delivery settling at $138.54 a barrel, a jump of $10.75. The increase was the biggest single-day price gain since record-keeping began in 1983 - taking out the previous session's record.
Oil prices spiked to a record trading high of $139.12 after the close, before pulling back a bit.
Gold and other commodities rallied too. COMEX gold for August delivery rose $23.50 to settle at $899 an ounce.
Gas backs off record: The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas fell to $3.986 from the previous day's record of $3.989, AAA reported. Gas prices had set new records for 28 of the previous 29 days.
Other markets: Treasury prices rallied, lowering the yield on the 10-year note to 3.93% from 4.05% late Thursday. Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.
On the move: Stock declines were broad based, with all 30 Dow issues falling.
The Dow's financial components were hit the hardest, with American Express (AXP, Fortune 500) and Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) both down 5%, and Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) down more than 4%.
AIG (AIG, Fortune 500) slumped more than 7% on reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into whether the insurer overstated the value of contracts connected to subprime markets, something AIG denies. Additionally, it was reported that federal prosecutors have asked the SEC for material related to the investigation.
Other big blue-chip losers included General Motors (GM, Fortune 500), down nearly 5%, and Boeing (BA, Fortune 500), down 5.4%.
Intel (INTC, Fortune 500), Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500), Cisco (CSCO, Fortune 500) and Qualcomm (QCOM, Fortune 500) were among the biggest technology decliners.
Market breadth was negative. On the New York Stock Exchange, losers beat winners by over 4 to 1 on 1.48 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, decliners topped advancers by nearly 4 to 1 on volume of 2.20 billion shares.Stocks spiked Thursday on a surprise dip in weekly jobless claims, stronger-than-expected May retail sales and a merger in the telecom sector. But the advance was short-lived as Friday's barrage of discouraging economic news and spiking oil prices brought out the sellers.