1) The United States Department of Labor reported that seasonally-adjusted initial jobless claims for the week ended December 29 grew 2.7 percent to 372,000. Economists polled by Bloomberg were forecasting 360,000 claims for the week. The four-week moving average climbed very slightly to the economists’ expectations of 360,000.
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Economists polled by Bloomberg were also expecting the private sector to only add 140,00 jobs in December, but the ADP National Employment Report showed an increase of 215,000 non-farm private-sector jobs for the month… (Read more.)
2) Yesterday, the markets celebrated a tax deal out of Congress. Today, they are looking ahead to debt-ceiling talks and the sequester, which was delayed for two months. The 113th Congress is sworn at noon and they will sit down to debate tremendous, divisive economic issues. The ongoing negotiations seem like a brewing storm to many investors, with policy makers on both sides of the aisle once again preparing to dig some political trenches and duke it out until the eleventh hour.
The markets will have to navigate fiscal discussions framed by comments from Republicans who want to hold the debt ceiling hostage, and Democrats who are confident they can score another victory… (Read more.)
3) The markets are also digesting a torrent of data from retailers and automakers on Thursday. December car sales came in strong and largely ahead of expectations. Retail sales also climbed in December despite some early pessimism coming out of the holiday season. Reports indicate that major chain-store sales grew 4.5 percent year over year, ahead of expectations for 3.3 percent growth.
At noon: DJIA: -0.04%, S&P 500: +0.08%, Nasdaq: +0.11%.