Stocks Opened Lower on Euro Zone Worry

Stocks opened lower on Thursday on renewed concerns about the euro zone’s financial health, but declines were curbed by encouraging employment data. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately was off 101.34 points at 12,317.08. The S&P 500 dropped 9.94 points to 1,267.36. The Nasdaq Composite fell 11.87 points to 2,636.49.

The French government sold 8 billion euros ($10.3 billion) of various government bonds, including 4.02 billion euros of 10-year bonds. France’s debt agency said the 10-year auction attracted 6.61 billion euros of bids, producing a yield of 3.29%. That’s up from 3.18% in a December sale.

Private-sector payrolls swelled in December, led by the service-providing sector and small businesses. According to ADP, private payrolls gained 325,000, far outpacing growth in prior months.

The number of Americans who filed requests for unemployment benefits fell for the fourth time in five weeks, keeping claims at a level usually associated with modest job growth. New requests for unemployment benefits fell by 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 372,000, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday.

Many U.S. retailers are reporting solid sales gains for December, ending a decent holiday season. But merchants relied on heavy discounting to get shoppers to buy in a challenging economy, raising concern about what it will take to get them to spend again in coming months.

Costco Wholesale Corp.’s revenue at stores open at least a year rose 7 percent in December, narrowly missing Wall Street’s expectations. Taking out increased gasoline prices and currency exchange, revenue at stores open at least a year climbed 6 percent in the U.S. and 11 percent overseas. Total revenue for the five weeks ended Jan. 1 increased 9 percent to $10.05 billion.

Macy’s Inc. is raising its earnings outlook for the fourth quarter and full year due to a strong holiday season and says it will double its quarterly dividend to 20 cents a share. The retailer is also increasing its share repurchase program by $1 billion.

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