Stock Started With Modest Losses after Jobless Data

U.S. stocks opened lower on Thursday, following a bigger-than-expected rise in weekly jobless claims. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately fell 62.09 points, or 0.45%, to 13,865.45. The S&P 500 index retreated 10.12 points, or 0.67%, to 1,501.83. The Nasdaq Composite declined 24.71 points, or 0.78%, to 3,139.70.

More Americans than expected filed new claims for jobless aid last week and consumer prices were flat in January, supporting the argument for the Federal Reserve to maintain its very accommodative monetary policy stance. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 362,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. It said in a second report that consumer prices were flat for a second consecutive month in January.

Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) reported quarterly earnings Thursday that topped expectations, but guidance for the first quarter came in shy of estimates as higher gas prices and the payroll tax increase cut into consumer spending. The retailer posted fourth-quarter earnings excluding items of 1.67 per share, up from $1.44 a share in the year-earlier period. Revenue increased to $127.9 billion from $123.17 billion a year ago.

Chesapeake Energy Corp (CHK) reported fourth-quarter profit that topped Wall Street estimates on Thursday. profit fell to $257 million, or 39 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, from $429 million, or 63 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier. Excluding items, Chesapeake’s profit came to 26 cents per share. Analysts, on average, had expected 14 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

WellPoint Inc. said it plans to raise the quarterly dividend it pays shareholders by 30 percent, an announcement that comes about week after the health insurer’s stock started slipping after it named a new CEO.

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