Stocks posted modest losses in quiet trading Thursday after three days of gains. Traders found little in the weekly employment data, or in reports on housing and manufacturing, to provide new economic insight.
NEW YORK (AP) — A surprise drop in unemployment claims Thursday couldn’t fuel another day of gains for the stock market.
Stocks posted modest losses in quiet trading Thursday after three days of gains. Traders found little in the weekly employment data, or in reports on housing and manufacturing, to provide new insight into the economy. Stocks surrendered early gains around midday and the Dow Jones industrial average ended with a loss of 8 points.
The stock market has risen in eight of the past 10 days and expectations for a recovery have propelled the Standard & Poor’s 500 index up 57.5 percent from a 12-year low in early March. The pace of the gains has brought warnings from analysts that stocks have gone too far, too fast.
“This market has become kind of saturated with good news,” said Jeff Kleintop, chief market strategist at LPL Financial.
The Labor Department said workers filing for jobless claims for the first time dipped to 545,000 last week from an upwardly revised 557,000 the previous week. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting claims to rise.
It was the lowest level of new claims since early July, indicating job cuts could be easing. However, those continuing to file for claims increased to 6.2 million, slightly above analysts’ forecasts. Many economists consider unemployment to be the biggest obstacle to a rebound in the economy, and the labor market is a major focus for stock investors.
Separately, the Commerce Department said housing starts increased in August to their highest level in nine months amid a jump in apartment building. Housing starts rose 1.5 percent to an annual rate of 598,000 units last month, just below the pace economists had forecast.
In another welcome sign, the Philadelphia Fed’s index of regional manufacturing conditions rose to 14.1 in September from 4.2 in August. The latest figure is the highest since June 2007 and the second straight positive reading. However a drop in new orders from August worried some investors.
David Chalupnik, head of equities at First American Funds, said the unemployment figures are encouraging for a recovery but that stocks will still need a break before moving significantly higher again. “Eventually the market does need to take a breather,” he said.
According to preliminary calculations, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 7.79, or 0.1 percent, to 9,783.92. On Wednesday, the Dow jumped 108 points to a high for the year.
The S&P 500 index fell 3.27, or 0.3 percent, to 1,065.49, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 6.40, or 0.3 percent, to 2,126.75.
Bond prices jumped, pushing yields lower. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.39 percent from 3.48 percent late Wednesday.
The dollar was mixed against other currencies, while gold prices fell.
Crude oil fell 3 cents to settle at $72.47 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
About three stocks fell for every two that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.5 billion shares compared with 1.6 billion Wednesday.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 1.91, or 0.3 percent, to 615.47.
Overseas, Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.8 percent, Germany’s DAX index gained 0.5 percent, and France’s CAC-40 rose 0.6 percent. Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 1.7 percent.