Stocks Wobbled at Start after Jobless Claims Data

U.S. stocks wobbled at Thursday’s start, after data on weekly jobless claims came in at or near expectations. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately fell 31.10 points to 11,582.43. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was off 4.46 points to 1,214.43. The Nasdaq Composite was down 5.35 points to 2,574.11.

The number of Americans seeking new jobless benefits fell last week but remained at a level associated with slow hiring trends, government data showed. New applications for unemployment compensation dropped 12,000 to 409,000 in the week ended Aug. 27, the Labor Department said Thursday.

A national infrastructure bank that would entice private investors into road and rail projects could be a major part of the jobs package that President Barack Obama hopes will finally bring relief to the unemployed.

Shoppers remained resilient in August despite wild stock market swings and worries about the economy, resulting in what’s winding up to be a respectable back-to-school shopping season for many merchants. Target Corp., Limited Brands Inc., and teen retailer Wet Seal Inc. posted sales gains that beat Wall Street expectations. But there were several stragglers. Gap Inc., which has been struggling with a sales malaise, posted a bigger-than-expected drop. Kohl’s Corp., and J.C. Penney Co. reported unexpected declines.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that productivity declined at an annual rate of 0.7 percent in the April-June period. That was a downward revision from the 0.3 percent decline first estimated a month ago and the second straight quarterly decline. Labor costs rose at an annual rate of 3.3 percent, faster than the 2.4 percent increase originally reported.

Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and two other firms have agreed with the New York banking regulator to end the practice known as robo-signing, in which bank employees signed foreclosure documents without reviewing case files as required by law, the Wall Street Journal said.

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