Stocks Started Higher After Housing, Jobless Data

U.S. stocks started slightly higher on Thursday, after a surprisingly strong report about the housing sector and the little changed jobless claims last week.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately fell 8.94 points, or 0.07%, to 13,155.84. The S&P 500 added 0.17 point, or 0.01%, to 1,405.70. The Nasdaq Composite rose 4.98 points, or 0.16%, to 3,035.91.

The Commerce Department reported that construction of single-family homes and apartments dipped 1.1 percent in July compared with June, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 746,000. In June, the rate had been 754,000, the fastest pace since October 2008.

The number of first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week, muddling the picture for the job market. About 366,000 people filed jobless claims in the week ended August 11, up 2,000 from the previous week, the Department of Labor said Thursday.

Sears Holding cut expenses and reduced inventory in its second quarter, helping the struggling retailer post a narrower loss than last year. For the period ended July 28, Sears lost $132 million, or $1.25 per share, compared with a loss of $146 million, or $1.37 per share, a year ago.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) dropped in New York trading after its forecast for profit this year trailed some analysts’ estimates amid slowing sales gains in the U.S. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), the world’s largest retailer, dropped in New York trading after its forecast for profit this year trailed some analysts’ estimates amid slowing sales gains in the U.S.

Zynga Inc. has begun investing in state and federal lobbying efforts around gambling with real money, even as the social-gaming firm predicts the U.S. won’t be an initial market for the potentially lucrative new line of business. The lobbying investments by Zynga in Washington, D.C., and California come as the company eyes real-money gambling versions of games as a key opportunity amid waning investor confidence and a battered stock price.

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