The weakest sectors in the broad market were technology, consumer non-cyclicals, and basic materials. Capital goods, consumer cyclicals, conglomerates were areas of strength.
Breadth was fairly even on the New York Stock Exchange while losers were ahead of winners on the Nasdaq by roughly a 2-to-1 ratio. Volume totaled 3.86 billion on the Big Board and 2.04 billion on the Nasdaq.
Thursday's data didn't provide much impetus to continue the rally stocks had enjoyed so far this week. Before the opening bell, the Labor Department said initial jobless claims for the week ended Oct. 13 rose by 46,000 to 388,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 342,000. The four-week moving average was 365,500, an increase from the prior week's 364,750.
Continuing claims for the week ended Oct. 6 fell 29,000 to 3.252 million from the preceding week's upwardly revised level of 3.281 million.
On average, economists were expecting initial jobless claims of 365,000 and continuing claims of 3.275 million.
"After all the confusion [between a high current reading and last week's barely revised low level of initial claims] the key four-week moving average now stands at 365,500 and we continue to believe that despite the higher than forecast reading the broad labor market is maintaining its forward momentum," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak. "Going forward and using the benchmark four-weekly average, we would say that initial claims will trend towards last week's lower number rather than this week's higher headline level."
The Philly Fed's Business Outlook Survey registered a jump to 5.7 in October from -1.9 the prior month. Economists were expecting a rise to 1.
Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at
High Frequency Economics
, noted that while the headline index signaled some improvement in manufacturing, "the details remain quite weak," with orders slipping to -0.6 from 1, employment falling to -10.7 from -7.6, and the six-month outlook index falling to 21.6 from 41.2.
"In short, while the headline index signals some improvement in manufacturing, the details remain quite weak. In interpreting the data, we expect manufacturing numbers to be weaker than other data now because of greater exposure to declining exports," said O'Sullivan.
A small bright spot among the economic releases was the Conference Board's Leading Economic Indicators Index, which rose 0.6% in September after falling by a downwardly-revised decline of 0.4%. Economists were forecasting a rise of 0.2%.
The FTSE 100 in London finished down 0.10% and the DAX in Germany was up 0.58% in trading Thursday.
The Nikkei Average in Tokyo closed up by 2% and the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong gained 0.48% after data showing that China's third-quarter gross domestic product rose 7.4% from a year ago, which was as expected by economists surveyed by
. Industrial production and retail sales data for September came in a bit above expectations.
The in-line GDP figure was "firming up beliefs that the Chinese economy has stabilized," noted Stephen Guilfoyle, U.S. economist at Meridian Equity Partners.