Stocks Barely Budge on Mixed Outlook for Global Economy
The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims during the week ended Aug. 4 fell 6,000 to 361,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 367,000, which was welcome news. However, the four-week moving average was 368,250, an increase of 2,250 from the previous week's average of 366,000. Economists surveyed by Reuters expected claims of 370,000.
Also, continuing claims for the week ended July 28, were 3.332 million, an increase of 53,000 from the preceding week's level of 3.279 million.
"A significant number of CEOs are not inclined to continue hiring and investing if they are uncertain as to how much of the health care burden they will shoulder for those newly hired employees and how much more in taxes they will be paying," said Alan Zafran, a partner at Luminous Capital. "They'd rather 'wait and see' before taking action."
On the better-than-expected weekly jobless claims numbers, Doug Roberts, chief investment strategist for Channel Capital Research, cautioned that it's not clear yet how much of the improvement is seasonally related and whether less palatable data could re-emerge by the time the summer is over.
"One number doesn't make a rebound," he said.
The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the June trade deficit narrowed to $42.9 billion from a downwardly revised $48 billion in May. Economists, on average, predicted the deficit shrank to $47.5 billion from $48.7 billion.
The Commerce Department also said Thursday that wholesale inventories fell 0.2% in June -- the steepest decline since September after no change in May, following a downward revision. This, as distributors experienced the sharpest decline in sales in three years. Economists on average thought that inventories rose 0.3%.
September crude oil futures fell 32 cents to settle at $93.35 a barrel and December gold futures settled up $4.20 at $1,620.20 an ounce.
The benchmark 10-year Treasury was falling 5/32, raising the yield to 1.697%. The greenback was up 0.34%, according to the dollar index.
The Hong Kong Hang Seng index finished higher by 1% after data showing that inflation eased further in China in July, providing the country with more leeway to reduce interest rates or increase spending amid a spate of weak July indicators.