Stocks Start Higher After Jobless Data

U.S. stocks were slightly Higher in early trading on Thursday after jobless claims fell more than expected last week, bolstering views of slow but steady improvement in the labor market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately added 3.37 points to 12,719.83. The S&P 500 climbed 2.62 points to 1,326.71. The Nasdaq Composite advanced 10.80 points to 2,859.07.

Jobless claims dropped by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000 in the week ended Jan. 28, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s near a four-year low.

The number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms surged in January to its highest level in four months as retailers and financial firms cut jobs, a report on Thursday showed. Employers announced 53,486 planned job cuts last month, up 28 percent from 41,785 in December, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. January’s job cuts were also up from the same time a year ago, gaining 38.9 percent from the 38,519 layoffs announced in January 2011.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will likely tell members of Congress on Thursday that the slowly improving economy may need more help from the Fed and that cutting the deficit too fast could backfire.

Greece’s international debt inspectors have discovered that the debt-ridden country still needs an extra euro15 billion ($20 billion) in help — on top of a promised euro130 billion bailout and a euro100 billion debt relief from private investors, a

European official said Thursday. Unions and employers in Greece are to resume talks Thursday as the country scrambles to push through more cost-cutting reforms and conclude massive debt deals that would prevent an imminent default.

Dow Chemical posted fourth quarter loss on tax charge, seeing volume weakness in Europe and North America. It posted a loss of 2 cents per share in the fourth quarter as a one-time charge resulted in higher taxes at its Brazilian operations. Excluding charges, Dow earned 25 cents per share.

Josef Ackermann’s reign at Deutsche Bank ended in a surprise quarterly loss on Thursday. Deutsche Bank posted a fourth-quarter pretax loss of 351 million euros ($463 million) compared with a 707 million euro profit in the same period the year before. The result was well below the 1.05 billion euro profit forecast in a Reuters poll.

Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) unveiled ambitious new growth plans alongside disappointing fourth quarter results on Thursday. Europe’s largest oil company by market capitalization said it would hike investments to drive a 50 percent rise in cashflow and a 25 percent rise in oil and gas production in coming years.

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