Stocks are seeing some strength in mid-morning trading on Thursday, adding to the gains posted in the previous session, as investors react positively to some mixed economic and corporate news. Additionally, traders are mulling over Treasury Secretary Geithner's hopes for a more powerful regulatory authority.
Before the market open, the Labor Department released its jobless claims report for the week ended March 21st, showing that initial claims rose to 652,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 644,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to rise to 650,000 from the 646,000 originally reported for the previous week.
The report also showed that continuing claims in the week ended March 14th rose to another new record high of 5.560 million from the preceding week's revised level of 5.438 million.
At the same time, the Commerce Department's final report on fourth quarter GDP showed that the economy contracted a little faster than previously estimated, although the revised drop in GDP was not quite as steep as economists had been expecting.
On the corporate front, Best Buy (BBY) released fourth quarter earnings that fell year-over-year but came in considerably above expectations on an adjusted basis. With the strong quarterly report, shares of the electronic retailer are currently up 14.3 percent.
Traders are also keeping an eye on Capitol Hill, where Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is pushing for the establishment of a resolution authority that would give the Treasury sweeping powers to shut down or reorganize failing financial institutions that pose a threat to the country's financial system.
In other news, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart said earlier that economic turmoil and the resulting global recession have generated a need for strong action from U.S. fiscal policymakers.
Many actions have been taken to stabilize the U.S. financial system, and further very important measures are in train, Lockhart said. For instance, the removal of legacy toxic assets from bank balance sheets is an essential step.
In recent trading, the major averages have moved well off their highs of the day, although they continue to hold above the unchanged line. The Dow is currently up 29.87 at 7,779.68, the Nasdaq is up 18.79 at 1,547.74 and the S&P 500 is up 2.23 at 816.11.
Despite an increase in the price of crude oil, which is up $0.75 at $53.52 a barrel, transportation stocks are turning in some of the strongest performances of the day. The Dow Jones Transportation Average is currently up 3.9 percent, climbing to its highest level in over a month.
Within the transportation sector, trucking and railroad stocks are leading the way higher, although airline stocks are also seeing notable strength
Retail, semiconductor, and networking stocks are also posting considerable gains on the day, with the S&P Retail Index up 3.6 percent, while the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index and the Amex Networking Index post gains of 3 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively.
At the other end of the spectrum, banking stocks are turning in some of the worst performances of the day. The Dow Jones Banks Index is currently down 1.7 percent, although it remains stuck in a recent trading range.
Stocks Driven By Analyst Comments
Siliconware Precision (SPIL) is posting a gain of 6.8 percent on Thursday following an upgrade. The stock was lifted to a rating of Overweight from Neutral at HSBC Securities. With the advance, the stock has risen to its highest level in six months.
Additionally, Solarfun Power (SOLF) is posting a 20 percent gain after being upgraded to Hold from Sell at Canaccord Adams.
Meanwhile, a 5.8 percent loss is being shown by Carlisle Companies (CSL). The decline follows a downgrade of the stock to Underweight from Hold at KeyBanc Capital Markets.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region closed mostly higher on Thursday, with Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closing up 1.8 percent.
Meanwhile, the major European markets are turning in a mixed performance, with the German DAX Index up 0.1 percent, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 and the French CAC 40 Index are down 0.3 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.
In the bond market, treasuries are seeing modest weakness but have come well off their lows of the day. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark 10-year note is up less than a basis point at 2.779 percent.
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