Jobless Claims Drop, Market RisesA new report from the Labor Department shows that new jobless claims fell more than expected, yet are still at high levels. The total number of people receiving unemployment benefits inches toward 6 million.
The government report released Thursday gives credence to Federal Reserve predictions that the country's job market will stay weak into 2010. The report shows that the number of initial jobless claims fell to 654,000, down from 674,000 from the week before. Labor analysts had projected claims to drop down to 660,000.
The total number of laid-off workers on unemployment rose to 5.84 million, up from 5.75 million. This reflects the highest number on records dating from 1967.
On Thursday, Wall Street jumped despite this news after banking giant Wells Fargo made a surprise profit announcement that outshone analyst estimates.
In other reports, retailer sales indicated they are stabilizing, with Wal-Mart Stores reporting stores open at least a year increased 1.4 percent. Discount retailer Target also reported its sales fell, but less than forecast by analysts.
Separately, retail sales reports showed some signs of stabilizing, as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said sales at stores open at least a year increased 1.4 percent, though that was less than analysts expected. Discount retailer Target Stores Inc.'s sales fell, but less than analysts forecast.
Nation's Trade Deficit Hits 9 Year Low
The US trade deficit hit a surprise nine-year low, as the prolonged recession cut imports, says the Commerce Department.
The trade deficit dropped for the seventh straight month -- by 28.3 percent to $26 billion from a revised $36.2 billion dollars in January, the department said in its monthly trade report.
The report said it was the lowest level since November 1999. The news surprised nearly all analysts, who had projected the deficit gap to shrink only to $36.5 billion.
The US recession, which has been ongoing since December 2007, had cut the US deficit by more than half since July 2008.
Exports swung back after a six-month decline in February and increased by 1.6 percent to $126.8 billion, made up mostly from consumer goods, autos, food and beverages. Imports continue their fall for a seventh straight month by 5.1 to $152.7 billion.
The top US trading partner, Canada, had its trade deficit drop to a 10-year low, to $1.8 billion from $2.5 billion in January.
The import prices for US-bound goods rose in March for the first time after seven months of decline, gaining 0.5 percent from February. That increase is far less than what analysts had expected; many projected a rebound in prices of 1.0 percent.