NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Wall Street's confidence eroded post-haste on Wednesday as poor economic data again reared its head and Greece's not-so-sudden instability suddenly became problematic.
The resulting deep selling wiped away recent gains, and put stocks back on track for a seventh straight week of declines.
June is only half over and the Dow Jones Industrial Average is already down 5.4% month-to-date, cutting the blue-chip index's appreciation in 2011 to just 2.8%. Wednesday's finish broke a two-day winning streak and was the Dow's lowest close since March 18. The Nasdaq Composite is already negative for the year, and the S&P 500 index is hanging by a thread, up just 0.62% on a price basis.
Beyond whatever unfolds in Greece, Thursday will provide plenty of economic data and earnings reports for investors pore over. Initial jobless claims for the week ended June 11 are due at 8:30 a.m. ET, and the consensus economist estimate is for 421,000, a decline from 427,000 last week, and below the four-week moving average of 424,000. Continuing claims for the week ended June 4 are seen at 3.7 million.At this point, there's no getting around how dim the employment picture has become. Basically, even when the rest of the economic data was improving, it wasn't enough to make a dent in the unemployment rate. Now there's cracks showing up everywhere, so where in the world is job growth supposed to come from? Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, would like to see initial claims come in "appreciably lower" than expectations to compensate for any revision to the previous week. "We think the underlying trend has leveled off, now that the array of one-time shocks have gone and the apparent panic induced by the rise in oil prices has faded somewhat, but we cannot be certain," he said. "The nasty but persistent habit of revising claims numbers higher means that last week's 427K will likely now be reported above 430K, and claims have not been that high since early May." Also at 8:30 a.m. ET will be May's housing starts number. The consensus view of 540,000 represents a tick up from 523,000 in April. Just meeting this view might give the market some comfort, as it would compensate for the shock of April's ugliness, but either way there's no case to be made for any momentum building here. The Philadelphia Fed survey arrives at 10:00 a.m. ET, and Wall Street is likely just bracing for the next body blow after Wednesday's Empire State Manufacturing survey, which came in negative for the first time since November 2010 in June.
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