Mixed Economic Reports
The Labor Department said Thursday that initial unemployment claims for the week ended Feb. 16 increased by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 362,000, from a revised 342,000 the previous week. Economists expected claims to rise to 347,000, according to Zacks. The four-week moving average for jobless claims rose to 360,750 from the previous average of 352,750. Markit Economics said Thursday its manufacturing output index for February showed the "sharpest rise in manufacturing output in almost two years," with a reading of 58.1, increasing from 56.8 in January. However, the Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) came in at 55.2, down from 55.8 in January. An index reading of over 50 indicates economic expansion. Markit said in its release that "incoming new work received by manufacturers also rose strongly during February. However, the rate of increase eased from January's 32-month peak." The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said existing-home sales in the U.S. increased by 0.4% in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.92 million from a revised 4.90 million in December. The sales pace in January was up 9.1% from a year earlier.