Market Opens Higher, Despite Jobs Data

Jobless claims rose again, defying expectations, but stocks appear to have discounted the number.
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Stocks in New York were modestly higher out of the gate Thursday as investors tolerated worse-than-expected economic data, continuing an up-and-down week.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

was rising 51 points, to 7322. The

S&P 500

was higher by 7 points at 772. The


added 2 points to 1427 out of the gate.

The morning's optimism comes despite two negative surprises in economic data. First,

jobless claims

rose far more than expected last week, rising to 667,000 from 631,000. The number of people receiving unemployment insurance for more than one week also surpassed expectations, coming in at 5.1 million, marking the fifth straight week jobless benefit rolls have set a new record-high on data going back to 1967.

In its latest report on

U.S. factory activity

, the Commerce Department said that orders for big-ticket goods declined by 5.2% in January, outpacing expectations, as global economic troubles affected a broad base of orders, including autos, metal products, machinery, computers, and household appliances. The release marks the sixth straight month of declines.

While the economic data here continues to be bad, as further evidence that the economic crisis is by no means limited to the U.S., Britain's second-largest bank, the

Royal Bank of Scotland

(RBS) - Get Report

swung to a $34.3 billion loss

in 2008 after a bout with heavy writedowns and impairment charges. The loss, although the worst in U.K. corporate history, was less severe than expected. RBS said it will shift 20% of its funded assets to a noncore division with plans to dispose or run them down over the next three to five years.

Looking out for our struggling banks on the domestic side,

the budget

that President Obama is sending Congress includes a provision for providing an extra $250 billion -- that's atop the $700 billion already allocated -- for troubled banks and businesses, according to a report by the

Associated Press


One of the government's first bailout projects of this crises,


(AIG) - Get Report

is reportedly

in "advanced" talks

with U.S. officials over a restructuring that would divide the firm into at least three government-controlled divisions in an attempt to keep it afloat, the

Financial Times


One of its more recent bailouts,

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

, reported Thursday

that it lost $9.6 billion in the fourth quarter as revenue plunged 34%, reflecting the sharp drop in worldwide vehicle sales.

The Detroit automaker also said it requires more funding this year from the U.S. Treasury in order to continue operating until sales recover and it realizes the benefits from a substantial restructuring. Moreover, it forewarned that, with its auditors, it must determine whether there's substantial doubt, presumably from the government, about its ability to continue as a "going concern."

In commodities, oil was rising $1.33 to $43.83, while gold was falling $20.80 to $945.40 an ounce.

Longer-dated Treasuries were recently mixed the 10-year note was recently lower by 7.5/32 to yield 2.8%, the 30-year was flat, yielding 3.5%.

The dollar was recently slightly stronger against the yen, and weaker vs. the pound and euro.

Stocks abroad were mixed. The FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt were recently lower, but Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended with gains of 1.7% and 2.6%, respectively.