Stocks Struggled Despite Jobless Claims Report

U.S. stocks struggled in early trading on Thursday despite U. S. unemployment claims fell in week ended April 28. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately up 8.03 points to  13,276.60. The S&P 500 Index fell 0.13 point to 1,402.18. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 3.22 points to 3,056.63.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi on Thursday said the economic outlook remains subject to downside risks, tied in part to ongoing tensions in some sovereign debt markets. 

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless aid fell more than expected last week, easing fears the labor market recovery was stalling. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 365,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

U.S. worker productivity fell from January through March by the most in a year. Stronger hiring at the start of the year was partly responsible for the drop. While worker output rose, the number of hours worked increased by an even larger amount. That lowered productivity in the first quarter at an annual rate of 0.5 percent, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Retailers are reporting sales gains for April that show a slowdown in spending from the previous month as cooler weather, an early Easter and renewed worries about the economy dampened shoppers’ enthusiasm to buy. As merchants report their sales figures Thursday, Costco Wholesale Corp. and Target Corp. posted gains that were smaller than Wall Street expected. Teen retailer Wet Seal Inc. posted a bigger-than-expected sales drop.

General Motors Co (GM) reported a first-quarter profit that surpassed forecasts as it was able to boost vehicle prices, especially in North America, andm cut losses in its troubled European operations. Net income fell to $1 billion, or 60 cents a share, from $3.15 billion, or $1.77 a share, in the same quarter a year earlier. Revenue for the quarter was $37.8 billion, up 4.4 percent from $36.2 billion a year ago.

Viacom Inc., the owner of Paramount Pictures, MTV and Comedy Central, on Thursday said its net income rose 56 percent in the latest quarter, even though a  slate of movies that was lackluster compared with last year held back revenue. Viacom earned $585 million, or $1.07 per share, in the January to March quarter. That compares with $376 million, or 63 cents per share, it earned in the same period last year.

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