U.S. stocks wavered between small gains and losses in early trade on Thursday as better-than-expected jobless claims data and monthly retail sales offset concerns about an interest-rate hike in Europe.
The S&P 500 Index gained 0.77 points, or 0.06 percent, to trade at 1,336.28 at 10:30 a.m. EDT. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 14.38 points, or 0.12 percent, to trade at 12,412.37. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.15 percent.
The applications for jobless benefits in the U.S. fell more than expected last week, recording a second consecutive weekly decline. Initial jobless claims in the US dropped by 10,000 to 382,000 compared with the revised figure of 392,000 in the previous week, while markets had expected the jobless claims to fall to 385,000 in the week.
Also, the seasonally adjusted four-week moving average of initial claims, considered as a more accurate measure of employment trends than the weekly number, decreased by 5,750 to 395,250, the lowest level since July 2008.
Most of the U.S. retailers reported better than expected same-store sales results in March despite poor weather and higher gasoline prices. Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ:COST) shares gained 4.40 percent and Macy's Inc. (NYSE:M) gained 1.19 percent after reporting better than expected March sales.
Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc. (NASDAQ:BBBY) stock advanced 9.38 percent as its fourth quarter earnings and revenue topped Street view. Profit was $283.5 million or $1.12 a share, up from $226 million or $0.86 a share last year. Sales rose 11.6 percent to $2.5 billion. Analysts had expected profit of $0.97 a share on revenue of $2.39 billion.
The euro widened losses against the dollar on Thursday, after the European Central Bank’s (ECB) President Jean Claude Trichet said that eurozone’s monetary policy remains “very accommodative.
The ECB on Thursday raised the interest rates by 25 points to 1.25 percent, its first since July 2008 to check the rising consumer prices in the region. However, Trichet said at a news conference that ECB's rate hike on Thursday was not necessarily the first in a series.
European stock markets are currently trading higher with FTSE 100 up by 7.40 points and DAX30 up by 11.05 points, while CAC 40 up by 14.08 points.
Crude oil futures advanced 0.09 percent to $108.93/barrel and gold futures gained 0.22 percent.