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Stocks Close Mixed; Traders Eye Employment Report

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Stocks Close Mixed; Traders Eye Employment Report

Stocks started the Thursday trading session in the black, as stronger than expected US data gave a lift to equity bourses. Friday’s solid jobless claims combined with a better than expected Challenger jobs report, gave a boost to US equities on the open. The numbers were in contrast to Wednesday weaker than expected ISM services sub-component which dropped dramatically. Stocks closed the trading session mixed again for the second straight trading session but this time the Nasdaq was in the red and the Dow and S&P 500 closed in the black.

On Thursday the employment news was somewhat better than expected. The Challenger jobs report, which reports the number of job cuts per industry, showed that job cuts where slightly more than 41K in February. This was the lowest number of February job cuts since 2000. February job cuts were down 24% year over year and 7.3% month over month. Financial job cuts were 9K which was the highest in the past two years.

Initial jobless claims dropped 26,000 to 323,000, according to the Labor Department. That was the lowest level since the end of November. Claims for the week ended February 22, 2014 were revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported. Separately, Nonfarm productivity dropped to 1.8% versus the 3.2% expected by economists. Economists polled had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits falling to 338,000 in the week ended March 1.

The better than expected news reverse the surprisingly poor employment gauge for the service sector released on Wednesday. The employment gauge of the ISM services report tumbled nearly 9 points to 47.5%, marking the lowest level since March 2010 as severe weather hindered hiring in some sectors such as construction and wholesale trade. This sub-component was very troubling, given it is hard to see why weather would affect service jobs.

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