The broad indexes all saw slight declines, after Automatic Data Processing said that the U.S. economy added 215,000 nonfarm private sector jobs during December, increasing from an upwardly revised 148,000 in December. ADP said that "goods-producing employment rose by 28,000 jobs in December as a large gain in construction jobs of 39,000 more than offset the 11,000 decline in manufacturing employment," while "service-providing jobs increased by 187,000."
The Labor Department reported that initial unemployment claims for the week ended Dec. 29 increased by 10,000 to 372,000 from the prior week's upwardly revised 362,000. Continuing claims for the week ended Dec. 22 rose 44,000 to 3.245 million, from the previous week's downwardly revised 3.201 million. Economists on average expected initial jobless claims of 365,000 and continuing claims of 3.2 million, according to Briefing.com.
The KBW Bank Index (I:BKX) was down slightly to close at 52.84, with the 24 index components roughly split between winners and losers. Large-cap bank stocks pulling back over 1% included Bank of New York Mellon (BK), which closed at $26.58; Capital One (COF), closing at $60.55; and U.S. Bancorp (USB - Get Report), which closed at $32.51.U.S. Bancorp was featured on Thursday as part of TheStreet's 5 Bank Stocks That Can't Stop Posting Profits, as the company has managed to keep its returns on average tangible common equity above 10% for each quarter since the beginning of 2006, according to data supplied by Thomson Reuters Bank Insight.
From the Cliff to the Ceiling
Investors who celebrated the budget agreement in Congress late Tuesday to avert the Fiscal Cliff may have been looking ahead to what is likely to be another last-minute game of brinksmanship between President Obama, his allies among the Democratic leadership of the Senate and the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives, as the United States is likely to come up against its legal debt limit in February. KBW Washington analyst Brian Gardner wrote in a report on Thursday that "the playing field for the fiscal cliff debate was tilted in President Obama's favor, and Republicans had a weak hand. However, in the debt ceiling debate the playing field will be more level and we believe Republicans will have more leverage." Reluctance among Republicans to agree to further tax increases, along with resistance of entitlement cuts by Democrats "leaves the situation over raising the debt ceiling more bitter and partisan than the fiscal cliff debate or the 2011 debt ceiling debate."