- The Washington Times - Friday, June 5, 2009

Wall Street closed Thursday with gains after a report that continuing unemployment claims declined for the first time in 20 weeks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 8,750.24, up 74.96 points. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closed at 942.46, up 10.70 points, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index closed at 1,850.02, up 24.10 points.

The Labor Department reported continuing claims decreased to 6.74 million for the week ending May 23, which was 15,000 less than in the preceding week. The number of first-time state claims decreased last week by 4,000, to 621,000.

The agency on Friday will release its monthly unemployment report - a key economic indicator that helps project consumer spending and retail sales.

Investors received mixed news Thursday from the retail industry.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it plans to hire roughly 22,000 people to staff 150 new or expanded U.S. stores this year. The company said some of the jobs will be in the professional categories of store management, pharmacists and human resource managers.

Wal-Mart stock closed at $50.87 a share, down one cent.

However, Costco Wholesale Co. and other retailers announced lower-than-expected May sales. Costco said sales dropped 5 percent compared with May 2008.

Costco closed at $47.87, down 60 cents.

The markets ended four days of gains Wednesday on worse-than-expected reports on factory orders - a day after the S&P; and Nasdaq reached 2009 highs.

The markets are up roughly 30 percent since hitting a 12-year low in early March, as banks stabilized and first-quarter earnings reports exceeded analysts’ modest expectations.

But analysts are now looking for a clearer sign the 18-month-long recession is ending, amid new concerns about the global economy, rising interest rates, the wavering value of the dollar and the increasing prices of oil and other commodities.

Bond prices fell Thursday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, increased to 3.71 percent. Interest rates are connected to the note so an increase impacts mortgages and other long-term loans.

The dollar rebounded against the euro but dropped against the yen and British pound. And the price of light, sweet crude increased $2.69, to $68.81 a barrel, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 0.75 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 dropped 0.08 percent, Germany’s DAX index rose 0.20 percent, and France’s CAC-40 rose 0.07 percent.

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