U.S. jobless claims rise; import prices sharply weaker
By Lucia Mutikani
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, but remained at levels associated with a healthy labor market.
Other data on Thursday showed import prices tumbled in December for a sixth straight month, weighed down by lower oil prices and a strong dollar. The data pointed to tame consumer prices that could keep inflation this year below the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 284,000 for the week ended Jan. 9, the Labor Department said. Still, it was the 45th consecutive week that claims remained below the 300,000 mark, which is associated with strong labor market conditions. That is the longest such stretch since the early 1970s.
"Claims are still low from a historical perspective, and we see little evidence in this morning's report to suggest anything other than healthy labor market separations," said Jesse Hurwitz, an economist at Barclays in New York.
Economists had forecast claims slipping to 275,000 last week. The increase likely reflects volatility as the data is difficult to adjust during holidays. Claims also tend to increase at the start of each quarter.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it strips out week-to-week volatility, rose 3,000 to 278,750 last week.
U.S. financial markets were little moved by the data. Stocks on Wall Street were trading higher in choppy trade, while U.S. Treasury prices were mixed. The dollar firmed slightly against a basket of currencies.
The labor market has largely shrugged off weakness in the economy, with nonfarm payrolls surging in December. Economic growth has been hit by dollar strength, tepid global demand, efforts by businesses to slim an inventory bloat, and spending cuts by energy companies. Continued...