RTTNews - Equities have bolstered their gains in mid-afternoon trading on Thursday after being marred by a lack of direction early in the day. The major averages are currently all holding in positive territory, offsetting the losses posted in the previous session.

Before the opening bell, traders were presented with employment data from the Labor Department that showed a decrease in first time jobless claims for the week ended May 30th. The report also indicated the first decrease in continuing claims in twenty weeks.

In a separate report, the Labor Department reported a revision in productivity figures for the first quarter, revealing a mild increase in the figure. The report also showed that unit labor costs increased by less than previously estimated.

The upward move seen over the course of the trading day comes as traders shrug off some uncertainty ahead of tomorrow's report from the Labor Department detailing the employment situation for the month of May.

The major averages have moved sideways in recent trading, hovering near their best levels of the day. The Dow is currently up 67.21 at 8,742.49, the Nasdaq is up 20.19 at 1,846.11 and the S&P 500 is up 9.97 at 941.73.

Dow Components

A majority of the Dow components are moving higher, helping the blue chip index to post a strong gain on the day.

Shares of airplane manufacturer Boeing (BA) are up by 4 percent, rising to a seven-month intra-day high. The move comes as United Airlines is seeking bids from Boeing and Airbus for up to 150 new planes. Reportedly, the deal could be worth more than $10 billion for the two firms.

The Dow is also being boosted by shares of Alcoa (AA), which are climbing by 6.5 percent to reach their best intra-day level in well over four months. The move comes as the price of aluminum has shot up over seven percent on the NYMEX.

Further, the Dow's financial stalwarts Citigroup (C), Bank of America (BAC), American Express (AXP), and JP Morgan Chase (JPM) are also seeing notable gains.

Limiting some of the day's gain by the Dow are shares of healthcare firms, with Merck (MRK) and Pfizer (PFE) both slipping by 1.4 percent.

Sector News

The major sectors have mostly turned to the upside, helping the major averages to firm up their presence in positive territory in mid-afternoon trading.

Commercial real estate stocks are posting moderate gains, with the Morgan Stanley Real Estate Index rising by 2.9 percent, poised to close at its best level in over four months.

Financials have broken out ahead of the pack, as reflected by the 4.1 percent gain being shown by the Kbw Banking Index. With the climb, the index is moving to the upper end of a recent trading range.

Notable gains also continue to be shown by resource stocks, with gold, oil service and natural gas stocks all climbing on the day. The strength in the sector comes amid a rebound in commodity prices.

On the other hand, retail stocks remain under pressure, with the S&P Retail Index falling 1.8 percent following notable declines in comparable store sales reported by the nation's leading retailers. Airline stocks are also pulling back on the day.

In Focus: Economic Data, Retail Sales Figures

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims fell to 621,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 625,000. Economists had been expecting jobless claims to edge down to 620,000 from the 623,000 originally reported for the previous week.

The report also showed that continuing claims fell to 6.735 million in the week ended May 23rd from the preceding week's revised level of 6.750 million. The modest decrease in continuing claims breaks a recent streak of record highs and marks the first decrease since the week ended January 3rd.

In a separate report, the Labor Department revealed that productivity increased by 1.6 percent in the first quarter compared to the 0.8 percent increase that had been reported last month. Economists had been expecting the increase in productivity to be revised up to 1.2 percent.

Additionally, the data indicated that unit labor costs increased by 3.0 percent in the first three months of the year, a downward revision from the originally reported 3.3 percent increase. The increase in costs was expected to be revised down to 2.9 percent.

On the corporate front, Ciena Corp. (CIEN) reported an adjusted second quarter net loss of $22.5 million or $0.25 per common share, compared to net income of $42.3 million or $0.40 per common share in the year-ago quarter. Wall Street analysts expected the firm to report a loss of $0.09 per share.

Meanwhile, membership warehouses operator Costco Wholesale (COST) reported a 7 percent drop in its comparable sales for the four-week period ended May 31, 2009, with a 5 percent decline in net sales.

A number of other retailers have also reported their monthly sales results, with Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF), J.C. Penney (JCP), Bon-Ton (BONT) and American Apparel (APP) all reporting declining sales on a comparable store basis.

Retail giant Wal-Mart (WMT) did not release its monthly sales results, however, as the company announced last month that it would cease providing its monthly results.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region finished modestly lower on Thursday. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index slipped by 0.8 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell by 0.4 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets finished modestly higher. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closed up by 0.8 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index finished up by 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

In the bond market, treasuries are seeing significant weakness, falling to their worst levels of the day in recent dealing. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note is trading at 3.70 percent, a jump of 14.9 basis points.

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