Stocks Struggled in Early Trading after Economic Data

U.S. stocks opened modestly higher and turned lower on Thursday after jobless claims and housing data . The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately fell 13.66 points, or 0.07%, to 20,598.20. The S&P 500 was 0ff 3.70 points, or 0.16%, to 2,345.55. The Nasdaq Composite was down 4.61 points, or 0.08%, to 5,814.83.

The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits in mid-February rose by 5,000 to 239,000, but they remained at exceedingly low levels that reflect the resilience of a nearly eight-year-old economic recovery.

U.S. homebuilding fell in January as the construction of multi-family housing projects dropped, but upward revisions to the prior month’s data and a jump in permits to a one-year high suggested the housing recovery remained on track. Housing starts fell 2.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.25 million units last month, the Commerce Department said.

Crude oil futures bounced around the flat line on Thursday as investors weighed recent production cuts by Saudi Arabia and other OPEC member nations against a rise in U.S. oil inventories. Light, sweet crude futures for delivery in April traded at $53.17 a barrel, up 6 cents, or 0.1%. Brent crude was down 2 cents at $55.72 a barrel.

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