Stocks dip on U.S. jobless data, debt rises

Thu Mar 29, 2012 2:15pm EDT
 
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By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A higher-than-expected number of Americans filing for U.S. jobless claims dampened investor sentiment on Thursday, keeping global stocks lower and raising the appeal of save-haven government debt.

New U.S. claims for jobless benefits fell only slightly last week, according to the Labor Department, missing forecasts for a greater decline, while the prior week's number was revised up. Some investors said the jobs numbers showed worrisome signs that the economic recovery may be stalling, after a period of improvement.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 359,000, the lowest level since April 2008. Separately, a report on the Commerce Department's final estimate of gross domestic product showed that the economy expanded 3 percent in the fourth quarter, as expected.

"The data today is evidence that we're not going to have the robust recovery we had been expecting. The economy is growing, and the labor market is healing, but both on a very slow basis," said Michael Yoshikami, chief executive officer at Destination Wealth Management in Walnut Creek, California.

Investors shrugged off data that showed U.S. household income grew at a faster pace in the fourth quarter than previously thought, which should help underpin spending this quarter.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was down 60.54 points, or 0.46 percent, at 13,065.67. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX was down 11.15 points, or 0.79 percent, at 1,394.39. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was down 29.01 points, or 0.93 percent, at 3,075.95.

European shares extended declines amid continued growth concerns and as technical pressure weighed on several major indexes.

The FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index of leading European shares closed down 1.2 percent to at 1,059.21, while the Euro STOXX 50 .STOXX50E was down 1.8 percent.   Continued...

 
A man refuels his car as gas prices are reflected into the windows of the United Oil gas station in Los Angeles, California March 24, 2012. REUTERS/Bret Hartman