Stocks Wavered After Jobless Data

U.S. stocks wavered between gains and losses in early trading on Thursday after weekly jobless claims came in above expectations,another sign of possible slowing economic growth.The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately rose 22.74 points to 13,113.46. The S&P 500 Index fell 0.40 point to 1,390.29. The Nasdaq Composite rose 5.94 points to 3,035.57.

The number of Americans lining up for jobless benefits fell only slightly last week and a trend measure rose, the latest sign of a weaker pace of healing in the still-struggling labor market. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped by 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

Automaker Chrysler Group LLC showed its best quarterly profit since its 2009 bankruptcy on strong sales in North America, and confirmed guidance that it will show a profit of about $1.5 billion in 2012. Chrysler, managed by its majority owner Fiat SpA (F), showed first quarter net income of $473 million, up from $116 million a year ago.

The Dow Chemical Co. says first quarter earnings fell 50 percent after it took a pre-tax charge of $357 million to close some of its plants. The nation’s largest chemical maker reported income of $412 million, or 35 cents per share, from January to March. That compares with $625 million, or 54 cents per share, for the same part of 2011.

First-quarter earnings for Exxon Mobil Corp. fell by more than analysts expected as financial results reported Thursday showed that the blue-chip oil company increased spending on massive capital projects. The oil major’s quarterly profit dropped 11% to $9.45 billion, or $2 a share, down from $10.65 billion, or $2.14 a share, earned in the year-ago period, Exxon Mobil said.

Aetna Inc.’s (NYSE:AET) first-quarter earnings fell 13% as the health insurer saw the portion of premiums paid out to cover medical costs increase. Aetna reported a profit of $511 million, or $1.43 a share, down from $586 million, or $1.50 a share, a year earlier. Operating earnings in the latest period were $1.34 a share. Revenue excluding capital gains and losses increased 6.2% to $8.86 billion, mostly owing to higher health-care premiums and fees.

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