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Stocks Moving Modestly Higher In Early Trading - U.S. Commentary


Stocks have moved modestly higher in early trading on Thursday, adding to the strong gains posted in the two previous sessions. The major averages have all moved to the upside, although buying interest has remained somewhat subdued.

The major averages have recently pulled back off their highs for the young session but are clinging to slim gains. The Dow is up 4.07 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 14,079.44, the Nasdaq is up 9.15 points or 0.3 percent at 3,171.40 and the S&P 500 is up 2.18 points or 0.1 percent at 1,518.17.

The early strength on Wall Street is partly due to a positive reaction to the latest batch of economic data, including upbeat reports on jobless claims and Chicago-area business activity.

Before the start of trading, the Labor Department said initial jobless claims dropped to 344,000 in the week ended February 23rd, a decrease of 22,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 366,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 360,000 from the 362,000 originally reported for the previous week.

A separate report from the Institute for Supply Management - Chicago showed that Chicago-area business activity unexpectedly increased at a faster rate in the month of February.

The report said the Chicago business barometer rose to 56.8 in February from 55.6 in January, with a reading above 50 indicating an increase in business activity. The increase came as a surprise to economists, who had expected the barometer to edge down to 55.0.

Nonetheless, a weaker than expected report on fourth quarter GDP and uncertainty about the looming sequester has helped to limit the upside for the markets.

Biotechnology, airline, and semiconductor stocks are seeing some strength, while most of the major sectors are showing only modest moves.

On the other hand, gold stocks have come under pressure in early trading, moving to the downside along with the price of the precious metal.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region saw considerable strength during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index surged up by 2.7 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped by 2 percent.

The major European markets have also moved to the upside on the day. While the German DAX Index has advanced by 0.8 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index are both up by 0.5 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries are moving modestly higher after ending the previous session in the red. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 1.2 basis points at 1.891 percent.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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