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Stocks Seeing Modest Strength On Upbeat Chicago Data - U.S. Commentary


Stocks have moved modestly higher in early trading on Thursday, regaining some ground after ending the previous session in the red. The major averages have climbed into positive territory, although buying interest remains relatively subdued.

The major averages have recently pulled back off their highs for the young session but are holding on to slim gains. The Dow is up 18.74 points or 0.1 percent at 13,929.16, the Nasdaq is up 8.85 points or 0.3 percent at 3,151.16 and the S&P 500 is up 0.32 points or less than 0.1 percent at 1,502.28.

The modest strength that has emerged on Wall Street is partly due to the release of a report from the Institute for Supply Management - Chicago showing a notable improvement in business activity in the Chicago-area in the month of January.

The ISM Chicago said its Chicago business barometer climbed to 55.6 in January from a revised 50.0 in December, with a reading above 50 indicating growth. Economists had expected the index to dip to 50.5 from the 51.6 originally reported for the previous month.

However, a separate report from the Labor Department showing that initial jobless claims rebounded by more than expected in the week ended January 26th has helped to limit the upside for the markets.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims rose to 368,000, an increase of 38,000 from the previous week's unrevised figure of 330,000. Economists had been expecting jobless claims to climb to 350,000.

While bigger than expected, Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital, said the rebound was not too shocking, adding, "And it was encouraging that the bounceback did not completely erase the two weekly improvements."

A separate report from the Commerce Department showed a substantial increase in personal income in December, although the jump was due in large part to accelerated dividend and bonus payments ahead of the year-end tax increases.

Networking stocks are seeing considerable strength in early trading, driving the NYSE Arca Networking Index up by 2.1 percent. Ciena (CIEN) has helped to lead the sector higher, surging up by 7.1 percent.

Most of the other major sectors are showing only modest moves, although notable weakness is visible among gold stocks.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index edged up by 0.2 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell by 0.4 percent.

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

In the bond market, treasuries are pulling back near the unchanged line after seeing early strength. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by less than a basis point at 2.001 percent after hitting a low of 1.971 percent.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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