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

The markets experimented with gains early in the morning before falling into negative territory by the afternoon. Earnings, otherwise strong this season, were generally weak on Thursday. A small increase in the number of unemployment claims isn’t helping investor confidence, either.

At 12:30 p.m.: DJIA: -0.19%, S&P 500: -0.25%, NASDAQ: -0.01%.

Here are three stories moving markets on Thursday afternoon:jobs

1) After hitting a five-year low the previous week, the number of American workers filing new applications for unemployment benefits increased in the week through January 26, hitting levels consistent with modest job growth.

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Last week, the advanced figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims rose by 38,000 to 368,000, the Labor Department reported on Thursday. The jump reflects the largest number of new claims since early November, when unemployment figures rose as a result of Superstorm Sandy… (Read more.)

earnings2) Business activity grew at a faster rate than expected in January, according to the MNI Chicago Report. The index rose 5.6 points to 55.6 for the month, its highest level since April of 2012. This unexpected growth was led by gains in production, new orders, and employment. However, the supplier delivers and prices paid segments dropped.

But despite the reading, members of the survey panel report that “business is slow out of the gate for 2013,” with “small businesses still reviewing impact from tax changes.” Cost increases remain a concern heading into the year.

3) Consumer comfort declined for a fourth straight week, according to the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, which fell to negative 37.5 for the period ended January 27. Perhaps surprisingly, some of the drop is being attributed to the fact that many Americans were unaware that the payroll tax holiday expired.

Looking ahead, an unexpected contraction in fourth-quarter GDP is expected to weigh on the figures for the coming week. Friday’s Employment Situation Report will also play a critical roll in consumer comfort, consumer confidence, and consumer spending. Many economists are hoping for a drop in U-3 unemployment to 7.7 percent, but any optimism is reserved.

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