U.S. stocks fell modestly in early trade on Thursday despite better-than-expected weekly jobless claims data as mixed earnings and political crisis in Egypt weighed on the sentiment.
The S&P 500 Index declined 2.35 points, or 0.18 percent, to trade at 1,301.81 at 9:55 a.m. EDT. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 19.82 points, or 0.16 percent, to trade at 12,022.15. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.12 percent.
The Department of Labor reported that initial jobless claims declined by 42,000 to 415,000 for the week ended January 29 from the previous week's revised figure of 457,000, while economists expected 425,000. The 4-week moving average of initial claims increased 1,000 to 430,500 from the previous week's revised average of 429,500.
The weekly jobless claims data comes a day ahead of the government's monthly nonfarm payrolls report, which is the most closely-watched economic data pertaining to the jobs market and is a key gauge for the direction and pace of the economic recovery.
The Egyptian army has moved to divide pro and anti government protesters on Thursday, amid reports that demonstrators from both sides were heading back to Tahrir square in Cairo, the site of Wednesday clashes which left at least 5 dead.
Most of the U.S. retailers reported better than expected same-store sales results in January. Shares of Zumiez Inc. (NASDAQ:ZUMZ) gained 5.71 percent as its January same-store sales surged 15 percent. Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ:COST) advanced 2.43 percent as its same-store sales rose 9 percent last month.
On the corporate front, Dow Chemical Co. (NYSE:DOW) shares advanced 1.45 percent as the company reported better-than-expected fourth quarter earnings. Its fourth quarter net income rose to $426 million or $0.37 per share, compared with $87 million or $0.08 cents per share in the same quarter a year-ago, while analysts’ expected net profit of $0.37 per share.
Merck & Co Inc. (NYSE:MRK) shares declined 3.43 percent. The company reported fourth quarter net loss of $531 million or $0.17 per share compared to a net profit of $6.49 billion or $2.35 per share in the same period last year.
The euro declined 1.03 percent to 1.3668 against the dollar and the yen declined 0.31 percent against the greenback.
Crude oil futures gained 0.33 percent to $91.16/barrel and gold futures advanced 0.30 percent.
European stock markets are currently trading mixed with FTSE 100 down by 16.79 points, DAX30 up by 1.09 points and CAC 40 down by 41.40 points.