"Based on this report, our expectations is for the recent weakness in existing home sales to end, with a modest up-tick in existing sales activity expected in April," says Millan Mulraine, senior U.S. strategist, TD Securities.
Before the open, the Labor Department reported that initial claims for the week ending Apr. 21 fell by 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000 from the previous week's upwardly-revised figure of 389,000. The consensus was looking for initial claims to decline to 375,000 last week from the originally-reported 386,000 the prior week.
The four-week moving average now stands at 381,750, an increase of 6,250 from the previous week's upwardly-revised average of 375,500. Continuing claims rose 3,000 to 3.315 million in the week ended April 14.
"The pace of jobless claims remained very elevated, with the number of jobless filings declining only marginally," said Mulraine.
In corporate news, Exxon reported first-quarter profit of $9.5 billion, or $2 a share, down from $10.65 billion, or $2.14 a share last year, and short of Wall Street's estimate for a profit of $2.09 a share. The stock close down 1%.
Brian Peery, portfolio manager, Hennessy Funds, says Exxon remains attractively priced, especially after announcing a quarterly dividend boost of 21% on Wednesday.
"If you take a long-term approach to things, Exxon's still trading at a really reasonable P/E and a yield of about 3%," he says. "So if I'm looking at this long term: Am I looking at a 2% ten-year treasury or am I looking at a 3% yield on Exxon, which has better tax treatment."