World Bulletin / News Desk
The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits edged higher last week although a trend reading fell close to a four-year low, pointing to healing in the still-struggling labor market.
Other data on Thursday showed groundbreaking on new U.S. homes fell in July in a reminder of the housing market's weakness despite some recent signs of recovery.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000, the Labor Department said. That was in line with economists' forecasts in a Reuters poll.
Claims data, which swung wildly in July due to shifts in seasonal auto plant shutdowns, are now giving a clearer picture of modest improvement in the labor market.
The data reinforces the view that economic growth could pick up in the second half of the year. But even then, the recovery is seen to be lackluster and perhaps in need of more support from the Federal Reserve.
"Overall, they (the data) are consistent with our outlook that growth will be a little bit better in the U.S. but not as upbeat as some people think," said Brian Kim, a currency strategist at RBS Securities inStamford, Connecticut.
"We're still looking at possible Fed action in September and these numbers don't really alter that view."
The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, dropped 5,500 to 363,750. That was the lowest since March - and the second lowest since April 2008.
U.S. nonfarm payrolls increased 163,000 in July after three months of gains below 100,000, although the unemployment rate ticked higher to 8.3 percent.
The pickup in hiring last month, along with gains in retail sales and manufacturing output, has dampened expectations the Fed could announce at its next meeting a plan to stimulate the economy with a third round of bond purchases. Officials at the Fed next review policy on Sept. 12-13.
U.S. stock index futures held onto earlier gains following the data.
The U.S. economy still faces a number of threats, including the looming possibility the government will raise taxes and cut spending next year. That is already hurting business sentiment.
Europe's festering debt crisis also menaces and is weighing on the global economy. China's Commerce Ministry said on Thursday the outlook for its exports has darkened.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc forecast full-year earnings that could fall short of Wall Street expectations as growth in international markets slows, even as its U.S. discount stores saw improved sales in a tepid U.S. economy.
Another report due on Thursday is expected to show factory activity contracted in the mid-Atlantic region for the fourth straight month in August.
That would be the second regional manufacturing report to show contraction during the month. On Wednesday, the New York Federal Reserve bank said factory activity slipped this month for the first time since October 2011.
In another somewhat downbeat sign, the Commerce Department said housing starts dropped 1.1 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 746,000 units.
The reading was below the median forecast in a Reuters poll of a 757,000-unit rate.
The government also revised lower its estimates for starts in recent months. But economists said the readings, which are prone to significant revisions, still pointed to healing in the housing market.
"This is nothing but normal statistical noise," said Stephen Stanley, an economist at Pierpont Securities in Stamford, Connecticut.
The U.S. housing market, which fell into a deep rut six years ago, has been a relative bright spot in the economy this year.
Home prices have shown signs of stabilizing and many economists think housing construction will give a small boost to the economy this year.
There were also some positive signals in Thursday's report. New permits for building homes rose 6.8 percent in July to a 812,000 unit pace, the highest rate since August 2008.
But outside of housing, the broader economy has looked wobbly this year, which could hold back gains in home building.
Much lawmaking in Europe, including a sweeping overhaul of banking, is wrapped up in talks between diplomats and lawmakers with no public record of who attended or what was said
Thousands of workers at a factory in Dongguan in the Pearl River Delta run by Hong Kong-listed Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings , the world's largest shoe maker, have been on strike for more than 10 days
Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said last week that Russia could launch a dispute at the world trade body to challenge U.S. sanctions.
A Gazprom source said the $11.4 billion was in addition to the $2.2 billion that Naftogaz already owes for supplies in 2013 and 2014 so far.
Tech giant Apple reported Wednesday a 4.6 percent increase to $45.6 billion in quarterly revenue, beating market expectations after selling 43.7 million iPhones.
The six-day meeting is expected to discuss the CFTA's objectives, the principles that will guide negotiations for the free trade area, and the institutional arrangements needed to conduct negotiations.
Russia has proposed from European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger for a three-way meeting on gas between Russia
The southern African country, which ditched its hyper-inflated local currency in 2009, is facing a serious dollar crunch as a result of lack of foreign donor support and investment
The European Commission, in charge of policing member states' public finances, is expected to respond to French projections in early June after European parliamentary elections
The Australian purchase is a signal of confidence in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme, which is about 70 percent over budget and years behind schedule
Executives say a plan is needed to tackle surging inflation as economic recession looms.
An agreement between the United States and Japan is crucial for setting the tone for other countries engaged in the TPP
The pipeline was closed as a precaution following the discovery of the fuel store
Unfair pricing which threatens U.S. domestic industry brings additional taxes to Turkish and Mexican companies.
With unemployment near 11 percent and growth sluggish, Valls must strike a balance between reassuring EU partners and investors about France's deficits
"Regardless of how the stand-off over Ukraine develops, one lesson is clear: excessive dependence on Russian energy makes Europe weak," Tusk argues