Updated from 9:07 a.m. EST

Stocks in the U.S. were hovering near the flat line early Thursday, but the averages were holding up well considering the sharp rise in unemployment numbers and discouraging news from the retail, auto and technology sectors.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was down 24 points to 8259, and the

S&P 500

was tacking on 1 point to 853. The

Nasdaq

slipped 13 points to 1486.

All things considered, the market's stability was notable as a number of bearish headlines crosses the newswires. Retail giant

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

reported a rise in third-quarter profit, but said its performance for the remainder of its fiscal 2009 would be hurt by currency fluctuations.

Financial stocks were also holding the spotlight again.

The Wall Street Journal

reported that

Citigroup's

(C) - Get Report

board, unhappy about the banking titan's recent results, was considering replacing its chairman, Sir Win Bischoff.

As for the automotive sector,

Bloomberg

reported that the beleaguered

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

was hitting a snag in its efforts to sell $4 billion in assets to raise its cash levels. Several lawmakers have begun discussing whether GM, along with

Ford

(F) - Get Report

and

Chrysler

, needs a government bailout.

In the technology arena, chipmaker

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

cut its fourth-quarter revenue forecast on weakening demand.

Elsewhere among chipmakers,

Applied Materials

(AMAT) - Get Report

announced a sharp decline in its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings and said it would eliminate 1,800 jobs next year.

German industrial conglomerate

Siemens

(SI) - Get Report

, meanwhile, announced a widened quarterly loss on charges related to job cuts and money dedicated to costs stemming from a bribery investigation.

Looking at economic data, the Department of Labor reported that jobless claims for the week ended Nov. 8 came it at 516,000, above economists' estimates of 479,000 and breaking above 500,000 for the first time since 2001. The jobless figure from the previous week was also revised to 484,000 from 481,000.

Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said that the Labor Department doesn't seem to have cited one-time causes for the jump in unemployment claims, so it's probably safe to say there has been an actual increase in layoffs.

"Assuming it is mirrored in a reduced pace of gross hirings too, this means we can look forward to a further deterioration in the payroll numbers," he wrote.

Meanwhile, the Census Bureau announced that the September trade balance registered a deficit of $56.5 billion, below analysts' forecast of $57 billion and down from a $59.1 billion deficit in August.

As the housing crisis wore on, RealtyTrac reported that 84,868 homes were foreclosed on in October, a 25% increase from the year-ago tally.

In commodities, crude oil was adding 31 cents to $56.47 a barrel. Gold was declining $4.70 to $713.60 an ounce.

Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were falling in price. The 10-year was down 3/32, yielding 3.74%, and the 30-year was losing 22/32 to yield 4.21%. The dollar was strengthening vs. the pound and yen, but softening against the euro.

Following weeks of declines in borrowing costs, credit markets tightened a bit Thursday. Three-month dollar Libor, a measure of the rate banks charge one another for large loans, edged up 2 basis points to 2.15%. Overnight Libor likewise climbed 2 basis points to 0.4%.

Across the seas, European exchanges were mixed, as the FTSE in London traded lower, while the DAX in Frankfurt was logging gains. In

Asia

, Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed with losses.