Thursday’s Mid-Day Movers: 3 Stories Driving Markets

Stocks advanced on Thursday afternoon, fueled by falling jobless claims and generally strong earnings. At 12:50 p.m.:

DJIA: +0.50% to 14,750.40 S&P 500: +0.66% to 1,589.14 NASDAQ: +0.86% to 3,297.84
Gold: +$31.10 to $1,454.80 per ounce Oil: +1.14% to $92.47 per barrel U.S. 10-Year: +0.014 points to 1.719%

Here are three stories helping shape the markets on Thursday afternoon:

1) Is The U.S. Economy Finally Creating Jobs? Between the Labor Department’s Employment Situation Report — which showed that the U.S. economy created a disappointing 88,000 jobs in March — and the number of Americans applying for jobless benefits picking up pace throughout the month, a dark cloud has been hanging over the labor market. But — amid the current run of soft economic data — the Labor Department reported Thursday that last week initial claims for unemployment benefits fell to a five-year low, a possible indication that employers are experiencing higher demand and may increase hiring.

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Initial jobless claims — which can be used as a proxy measurement of layoffs — decreased by 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 339,000 in the week ended April 20. These figures are the lowest recorded since early March and the second-lowest since January 2008. Comparatively, economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires had expected 350,000 new application for jobless benefits last week… (Read more.)

2) Most Americans Missed the ‘Economic Recovery’: The Great Recession technically ended in the summer of 2009, as gross domestic product rebounded from the bottom and started to expand. However, to many Americans not looking at the textbook definition, the recession never ended. Stagnant wages, high unemployment, and rising expenses are still weighing on consumers. Making matters worse, the rebound in asset prices missed the majority of the country.

During the first two years of the “economic recovery,” the wealthiest households enjoyed the majority of the rebound. The mean net worth of households in the upper 7 percent of the wealth distribution surged 28 percent to $3,173,895 between 2009 and 2011, according to a new analysis from the Pew Research Center and Census Bureau data. In comparison, the mean net worth of households in the lower 93 percent declined by 4 percent… (Read more.)

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3) Consumer Confidence Remains Strong: Consumer confidence remained near a five-year high last week, according to the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index. The reading edged down from -29.2 to -29.9, with households reporting that they were the most optimistic about their finances in 10 months. Rising home prices and easing fuel costs have helped ease concerns about some recent downward movement in equities.

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