Updated from 11:04 a.m. EDTU.S. stocks were backing off from a short-lived pop at midday Thursday, led by a pullback in the financial space, as the string of erratic sessions that has become routine for the major averages continued. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was gaining 20 points to 8540, and the S&P 500 was down 2.3 points to 895. The Nasdaq was adding 23 points to 1593. The Dow started slow, then gathered steam and rose more than 200 points before retreating. On Wednesday, stocks sold off steadily as many companies, citing an impending economic downturn, cautioned investors not to expect much in coming months. The new day's economic data lent support to U.S. companies' cautious prognostications. The Department of Labor's jobless numbers for the week ended Oct. 18 unexpectedly rose by 15,000 to 478,000. Economists were expecting 468,000 unemployment claims for the week. In addition, home foreclosures were up 71% year over year to 766,000 for the third quarter as home prices declined, according to RealtyTrac. Separately, the Federal Housing and Finance Agency said its home price index slipped 0.6% from July to August and fell 5.9% year over year. As the economic outlook worsened, the government looked ready to aid homeowners. The Bush administration is mulling a $40 billion program to prevent foreclosures, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Speaking before Congress, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said that the financial crisis was a once-in-a-century event and admitted his oversight of financial markets during his tenure had been flawed.