- Jobless claims drop as eyes turn to jobs report
- Macy's jumps, Bed Bath & Beyond drops
- Ford lifts quarterly dividend
Dow Jones: -0.09%
S&P 500: 0.06%
US markets opened more or less flat on Thursday morning despite data showing that weekly jobless claims declined to their lowest in a month.
However, gains were only modest as investors showed caution ahead of the December jobs report tomorrow which will factor into the Federal Reserve's policy decision this month on whether or not to continue with its stimulus withdrawal.
Minutes from latest meeting - released after the close last night - which showed that US policymakers viewed the effectiveness of quantitative easing as lessening over time.
The US Labour Department revealed today that initial weekly claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 15,000 to 330,000 from an upwardly revised 345,000 in the month before.
Claims declined by more than expected with economists having pencilled in a figure of around 335,000. However, analysts warned that data could have been distorted by the holidays, which should be kept in mind ahead of Friday's monthly labour-market figures.
"Claims have been volatile in the past few months, averaging 327k in November and then 360k in December, but we expect them to continue to grind lower in the coming months as the labour market continues to improve," said analyst Cooper Howes from Barclays.
Figures from ADP out yesterday showed that the American economy added significantly more jobs than expected in December, indicating upside risk to the official US employment report.
The consensus of analysts expect a 195,000 increase in non-farm payrolls in December when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the data tomorrow, down slightly from the 203,000 gain the month before. The unemployment rate is estimated to remain at 7%.
Retailers in focus
The share price of department store Macy's after the company announced jobs cuts and store closures that aim to save $100m per annum. The retailer also forecast a profit for the full year that smashed analysts' expectations.
In contrast, houseware chain Bed Bath & Beyond plummeted after weaker-than-expected third-quarter earnings and guidance for the full year.
JC Penney was bouncing back after heavy falls the day before. Broker Piper Jaffray upped its view on the shares
Ford was in focus today after raising its quarterly dividend by 25% as it attempts to reassure investors following its warning of weaker profits in 2014.
Drug distributor McKesson gained strongly on reports that it has increased its offer to acquire European peer Celesio.
Front-month West Texas crude futures were up 0.48% to the $92.77 a barrel on the NYMEX in morning trade.
10-year US Treasury yields were one basis point lower at 2.98%.