New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, further evidence of material improvement in the labor market.
KEY POINTS: * Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000 the Labor Department said. The government revised weekly claims data back to 2006 to take into account new seasonal factors. * Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims edging down to 380,000. The prior week's figure was revised up to 394,000 from the previously reported 382,000. * The four-week moving average of unemployment claims -- a better measure of underlying trends - rose 3,250 to 394,250.
IAN LYNGEN, SENIOR GOVERNMENT BOND STRATEGIST, CRT CAPITAL GROUP, STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT:
Overall, a marginally weaker report for the labor market -- notable ahead of tomorrow's non-farm payrolls/unemployment rate release. Treasuries were higher ahead of the release and since the data, the price action has been constructive.
MICHAEL MULLANEY, PORTFOLIO MANAGER, FIDUCIARY TRUST CO, BOSTON:
Futures are flat, this was a non-event. There will probably be some profit-taking given the strength of the market, up eight out of the last 10 sessions, suggesting we could be due for a slight pullback.
There was nothing spectacular in claims, but one thing we've been looking at is that we have to get claims in the 250,000 area to be considered normal again. At level, we'll be creating enough jobs to deal with the inclusion of new people in the work force.
This is still a relatively high number; we'd like to see claims smaller than this, but this won't be earth-shattering for markets. ADP was relatively strong, so that number and this number don't rock the boat for tomorrow's payroll. But we're just not at the kind of pace we need in order to get employment back to normalized levels.
VIMOMBI NSHOM, ECONOMIST, IFR ECONOMICS, A UNIT OF THOMSON REUTERS:
Although at first glance this looks like an increase from last week's report, the new seasonal factors have pushed claims' reading for the week ending March 19 up to 394k (had originally been 387k), so today's number is really a decline of 6k, generally what the market was expecting. Additionally suggestive of a job market less inclined to layoffs is the fact that unadjusted claims (354k) were flat between the two weeks.
MARKET REACTION: STOCKS: U.S. stock index futures were little changed BONDS: U.S. bond prices added to gains FOREX: The dollar fell against the euro