Stocks Start with Gains on Jobless Claims

U.S. stocks opened higher on Thursday after the government said jobless claims dipped last week, signaling companies could pick up the pace of hiring in May. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately rose 84.73 points, or 0.66%, to 12,919.79. The S&P 500 added 10.55 points, or 0.78%, to 1,365.13. The Nasdaq Composite gained 11.30 points, or 0.39%, to 2,946.01.

The number of Americans submitting new applications for jobless benefits edged down last week, easing concerns the labor market was deteriorating after April’s weak employment growth. New claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

The U.S. trade deficit rose in March at the fastest rate in 10 months. A rise in consumer goods lifted imports to a record level, outpacing a solid gain in U.S. exports. The Commerce Department said Thursday that the trade gap widened to $51.8 billion in March, up from $45.4 billion in February. Imports rose 5.2 percent to a record $238.6 billion, reflecting more foreign oil, autos, cell phones and clothes. Exports increased nearly 3 percent to $186.8 billion. Sales to Europe reached an all-time high despite the region’s debt crisis.

Figures from T-Mobile USA on Thursday, added to earlier reports from other companies, indicate that the U.S. wireless industry lost subscribers from contract-based plans for the first time in the first quarter. The seven largest U.S. phone companies, representing more than 95 percent of the market, lost a combined 52,000 subscribers from contract-based plans in the January to March period, according to a tally by the Associated Press.

Oil fell for a seventh day in New York, its longest run of declines since December 2009. West Texas Intermediate oil fell as much as 0.5 percent. Crude inventories rose 3.7 million barrels last week to 379.5 million, the highest level since 1990, even as fuel supplies shrank, Department of Energy data showed. WTI for June delivery fell as much as 52 cents to $96.29 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $96.34 at 9:24 a.m. London time.

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