After showing some uncertainty throughout most of the trading session, stocks are moving mostly higher in mid-afternoon trading on Thursday. The major averages have all moved firmly into positive territory, although the Dow continues to underperform the Nasdaq by a wide margin.
While mixed economic data contributed to the choppy trading seen earlier in the day, Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart said that a recovery from one of the most severe recessions in the post-war era is around the corner.
Although he does not expect the recovery to be strong, Lockhart said in a speech Thursday afternoon that he expects slow and tentative growth in the third quarter.
In economic news, the Labor Department said initial jobless claims fell to 610,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 663,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge up 658,000 from the 654,000 originally reported for the previous week.
At the same time, report showed that continuing claims in the week ended April 4th rose to 6.022 million from the preceding week's revised level of 5.850 million.
Meanwhile, a Commerce Department report showed that housing starts fell 10.8 percent to an annual rate of 510,000 in March from the revised February estimate of 572,000. Economists had expected starts to slip to 540,000 from the 583,000 originally reported for the previous month.
In an interview with RTT News, John Petrides, growth portfolio manager at Advisors Capital Management, said that while the housing news was weak, it is great for the economy, as fewer houses being built gives the market an opportunity to rebound as supply begins to narrow.
Separately, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve said its index of regional manufacturing activity rose to a negative 24.4 in April from a negative 35.0 in March. While a negative reading indicates a contraction in the sector, the index increased by much more than expected.
Before the start of trading, financial services giant JP Morgan (JPM) released its first quarter financial results, reporting earnings that fell year-over-year but came in above analyst estimates.
Additionally, mobile phone giant Nokia (NOK) is continuing to show gains despite reporting first quarter earnings that fell sharply year-over-year. Nokia noted that it expects second quarter worldwide mobile device volume to be flat or show modest sequential growth.
While the Dow is posting a relatively modest gain, the major averages are currently all trading in positive territory. The Dow is currently up 32.73 at 8,062.35, the Nasdaq is up 28.86 at 1,655.66 and the S&P 500 is up 7.62 at 859.68.
A majority of the Dow components are trading in positive territory in mid-afternoon trading, contributing to the modest gain currently being shown by the blue chip index.
Following the trend of the broader markets, many of the Dow's best performances are being turned in by technology-related stocks.
Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) is showing one of the biggest gains of the session, rising 4.3 percent on the day. With the advance, the stock has risen to its best intraday level in over two months.
Software giant Microsoft (MSFT) is also showing a noteworthy advance on the session, up 3.1 percent from its closing level in the previous session.
General Electric (GE), Procter & Gamble (PG), and JP Morgan are also posting notable gains on the day. GE is up 3.3 percent, while Procter & Gamble is up 2.5 and JP Morgan is up 2.1 percent in response to its positive quarterly report.
At the other end of the spectrum, Merck (MRK) is turning in one of the worst performances, trading down 2.9 percent on the day.
Wal-Mart (WMT), Kraft (KFT), and Chevron (CVX) are also notably lower, falling 1.8 percent, 1.7 percent, and 1.6 percent, respectively.
Technology stocks continue to show some of the best performances of the day, with electronic storage stocks posting particularly strong gains, driving the Amex Disk Drive Index up 4.6 percent. At its high for the session, the index was at a three-month intraday high.
Within the storage sector, Imation (IMN) is posting one of the strongest gains, rising 8.1 percent. With the advance, the stock has risen to its highest level in over two and a half months.
Along with the technology stocks, housing and retail stocks are also showing notable advances, with the Philadelphia Housing Index and the S&P Retail Index posting gains of 3.9 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively.
Meanwhile, gold stocks continue to suffer some of the worst losses of the day, with the Amex Gold Bugs Index down 5.8 percent. Some health insurance stocks also continue to post notable losses.
In overseas trading, the stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region closed mixed on Thursday, with most of the markets in the region pulling back off their highs after seeing early strength.
Meanwhile, the major European markets all closed firmly in positive territory. The French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index closed up 1.8 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index jumped 2.1 percent.
In the bond market, treasuries pulled back to new lows for the session, notably within negative territory. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark 10-year note is currently up 7.5 basis points at 2.834 percent.
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