U.S. stocks were down slightly Thursday as traders weighed lower-than-expected U.S. weekly unemployment claims with lackluster performance in the earnings season that began Wednesday. In morning trading Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) fell 57 points, or 0.32 percent, to 17,845.55. The Standard & Poor's 500 (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) lost 4.75 points, or 0.23 percent, to 2,077.04. The Nasdaq composite (INDEXSP:.INX) rose 8.83 points, or 0.18 percent, to 4,941.95.
Alcoa’s (NYSE:AA) stock lost 5 percent Thursday to $12.98 after the aluminum maker reported late Wednesday revenue that missed forecasts and signaled challenges ahead. Meanwhile, home accessories retailer Bed Bath & Beyond (Nasdaq:BBBY) saw its shares drop nearly 5 percent to $73.82 after it reported earnings in line with forecasts.
Walgreens Boots Alliance (NYSE:WAG), the global pharmacy retailer based in Illinois, said its second-quarter profit of $2.06 billion, or $1.93 a share, up from $716 million, or 74 cents a share, in the same period last year. Its shares jumped nearly 3 percent to $9.22 in morning trading.
U.S. markets were moving in the opposite direction of European markets, which rose on German industrial production and relief that cash-strapped Greece met a crucial debt repayment deadline. France’s CAC 40 was up 1.12 percent to 5,194.26, Germany’s DAX gained 0.74 percent to 12,124.58 while Britain’s FTSE rose 1.02 percent to 7,007.87 in late-day trading Thursday.
The Greek Finance Ministry announced Thursday it scheduled a 450 million euro ($483 million) payment to the International Monetary Fund, alleviating worries that a default from the euro zone member was imminent. European investors breathed a sigh of relief on the news.
Adding support to European stocks: Official figures show Germany’s industrial production rose 0.2 percent in February from the previous month, a modest gain but one that beat a market forecast of 0.1 percent. Meanwhile, imports and exports both increased more than expected in Europe’s largest economy.
"The fundamental upward trend in German industry is intact, despite some monthly volatility," Andreas Rees, chief German economist at UniCredit, told Reuters.
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased less than expected last week, said Labor Department data released before the opening bell in New York. The four-week moving average of jobless claims to the week ended April 4 fell to its lowest level since 2000, to 282,250. Claims under 300,000 indicate a strengthening labor market.
The U.S. dollar hit a one-week high Thursday after the jobless claims figures were released and amid speculation that the U.S. Fed could begin to increase interest rates before the end of the year. The dollar was up 0.7 percent against the euro, to $1.069 Thursday morning. The dollar had been on a bull run for the past year, which has been pulling down U.S. corporate profits on revenue earned in foreign currencies.
Oil prices recovered some ground after losing on news of record Saudi oil production in March. Brent crude gained 2.83 percent to $57.12 in London while West Texas Intermediate rose 1.67 percent to $51.26.