Stocks Opened Lower after Claims, Sales Data

U.S. stocks opened slightly lower on Thursday after a trend gauge in weekly jobless claims signaled modest economic improvement and retailers posted mixed monthly sales. The Dow Jones industrial average lately dropped 46.46 points, or 0.33 percent, at 13,940.06. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 2.08 point, or 0.14 percent, at 1,510.04. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 4.71 points, or 0.15 percent, at 3,163.77.

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell last week and a trend reading hit a near five-year low, a sign the grinding recovery in the labor market remains on track. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000, the Labor Department said.

Several U.S. retailers reported mixed January sales results on Thursday, as consumers faced a hit to their take-home pay from higher payroll taxes, while cold weather may have helped spur purchases of winter clothes.

U.S. worker productivity shrank in the final three months of 2012. Productivity contracted at an annual rate of 2 percent in the October-December quarter, the biggest drop since the first quarter of 2011, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Sprint Nextel Corp., the country’s third largest wireless carrier, on Thursday said it lost $1.3 billion in its fourth quarter, about the same as a year ago. The company lost 44 cents per share in the October to December period versus 43 cents per share in the previous year. Revenue was $9 billion, up 3.2 percent from a year ago.

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