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US open: Stocks head south following weekly jobless claims report

Thu 18 February 2021 15:31 | A A A

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(Sharecast News) - Wall Street stocks were firmly in the red after the opening bell on Thursday as the Labor Department's weekly jobless claims report fell short of estimates.

As of 1530 GMT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.98% at 31,301.82, while the S&P 500 was 1.11% weaker at 3,887.71 and the Nasdaq Composite started out the session 1.76% softer at 13,719.88.

The Dow opened 311.20 points lower on Thursday, reversing gains recorded in the previous session.

Thursday's primary focus was the jobless claims report from the Labor Department which revealed that weekly jobless claims data in the US had come in well ahead of economists' forecasts.

According to the Department of Labor, in seasonally adjusted terms the number of Americans filing for unemployment claims rose by 13,000 to 861,000 over the week finishing on 13 February. Economists were expecting to see 773,000 new claims, a modest decrease week-on-week.

The previous week's estimate was revised higher by 55,000 to 848,000, while the four-week moving average of initial claims slipped by 3,500 to 833,250 and secondary unemployment claims slipped by 64,000 to 4.49m.

Market participants will also be closely watching Treasury yields, currently nearing one-year highs, and surging oil and gas prices amid a cold snap in the state of Texas.

In the corporate space, Hormel Foods posted a 5% drop in quarterly pre-tax earnings despite reporting record net sales of $2.5bn, while Walmart earnings also missed expectations despite posting a 69% increase in e-commerce sales.

Blue Apron unveiled a fourth-quarter loss of $11.9m despite stating revenues were boosted by meal-kit demand, while Dropbox will report its latest quarterly figures after the close.

Leaders of Melvin Capital and Robinhood were also scheduled to appear in front of Congress on Thursday as part of a series of hearings around the meteoric rise of GameStop shares earlier in the month, while Reddit trader Keith Gill will speak at the House of Representatives' Committee on Financial Services.

On the macro front, import prices jumped past forecasts at the start of 2021, led by rising energy prices, according to the Department of Labor, which said US import prices increased at a month-on-month pace of 1.4% and a year-on-year print of 0.9%. Energy prices drove the increase, rising at an 8.1% clip on the month, alongside a 0.4% rise in food inflation.

Elsewhere, homebuilders in the US broke ground on fewer homes than expected in January. According to the Department of Commerce, in seasonally adjusted terms, the annualised rate of housing starts fell at a month-on-month pace of 6.0% to reach 1.58m, short of consensus estimates for a reading of 1.65m.

Lastly, manufacturing activity in the US mid-Atlantic region continued to grow at a brisk pace in February, the results of a closely-watched survey revealed. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's factory sector index, which is derived from a survey, slipped from a reading of 26.5 in January to 23.1 for February, short of consensus estimates for a reading of 19.8.

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