Stocks Opened Lower despite Upbeat Jobless Claims Data

U.S. stocks opened lower on Thursday, with losses driven by a continued selloff in tech and biotech stocks, as a stronger-than-expected report on jobless claims did little to alleviate concerns of a marked slowdown in the economy during the first quarter. The Dow Jones industrial average lately fell 46.05 points, or 0.26%, to 17,672.49. The S&P 500 lost 3.56 points, or 0.17%, to 2,057.49. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 15.29 points, or 0.31%, to 4,861.23.

Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week as improved weather conditions ushered in labor-market stabilization. Jobless claims fell by 9,000 to 282,000 in the seven days ended March 21, the lowest level since mid-February, a Labor Department report showed Thursday.

ConAgra Foods Inc, the maker of Slim Jim beef jerky and Chef Boyardee pasta, reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit due to cost cuts and the company raised its full-year earnings forecast. Operating profit in the company’s consumer foods business, under which it sells products including Act II popcorn and Bertolli pasta, rose 3 percent due to lower advertising costs.

Brent crude surged on Thursday after Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies began air strikes in Yemen. Brent futures  were up $1.20 at $57.68 by 0916 EDT, off an earlier high of $59.78. U.S. crude (CLc1) was up $1.07 at $50.28 a barrel.

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