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Stocks Showing A Lack Of Direction In Early Trading - U.S. Commentary

Stocks are turning in a lackluster performance in early trading on Thursday following the release of a disappointing jobs report. The major averages are lingering near the unchanged line after ending the previous session firmly positive.

The major averages are currently turning in a mixed performance, with the S&P 500 posting a modest loss. While the S&P 500 is down 0.33 points or less than 0.1 percent at 1,390.36, the Dow is up 22.78 points or 0.2 percent at 13,113.50 and the S&P 500 is up 6.91 points or 0.2 percent at 3,036.54.

The choppy trading on Wall Street comes after the Labor Department released a report showing a much smaller than expected drop in initial jobless claims in the week ended April 21st.

The report showed that jobless claims edged down to 388,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 389,000. Economists had been expecting jobless claims to fall to 375,000 from the 386,000 originally reported for the previous week.

While jobless claims remained below the key 400,000 level, they came in above 380,000 for the third consecutive week.

Peter Boockvar, managing director at Miller Tabak, said, "Bottom line, the 1st week above 380,000 we were able to cite Good Friday as a reason in distorting the seasonals. The 2nd week in a row above 380,000 we said it bears watching."

"Now the 3rd week in a row above 380,000 and it's more clear that the downward trend in firing's has stopped for now," he added.

Most of the major sectors are showing only modest moves, although significant strength has emerged among semiconductor stocks. The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index has advanced by 1.3 percent, with Cirrus Logic (CRUS) and Xilinx (XLNX) posting standout giants.

Housing stocks are also seeing considerable strength in early trading, resulting in a 1.1 percent gain by the Philadelphia Housing Sector Index.

On the other hand, health insurance stocks have come under pressure, dragging the Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor Index down by 3.2 percent. Aetna (AET) is leading the sector lower after reporting weaker than expected first quarter earnings.

Transportation and networking stocks are also seeing early weakness, although selling pressure is relatively subdued.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region closed modestly higher on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index closed just above the unchanged line, while Australia's All Ordinaries Index crept up by 0.3 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced by a more notable 0.8 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets have all moved to the downside on the day. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is down by 0.2 percent, the German DAX Index is down by 0.3 percent, and the French CAC 40 Index is down by 0.7 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries have moved higher on the heels of the disappointing jobs data. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 4 basis points at 1.944 percent.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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