The EconomyThe Labor Department said initial jobless claims came in at 442,000, showing a higher-than-expected decline from the prior week's downwardly revised level of 456,000. Economists had been projecting a smaller decline to 450,000 claims. "Claims still appear to be above levels consistent with stabilization in payrolls -- we think they probably have to fall to 425,000. Unusually bad winter weather throughout much of the year may have raised new claims above their underlying trend," said UBS economist Maury Harris, who noted improvements across other labor market measures which point to an unemployment rate that has peaked. Looking ahead to the government's nonfarm payroll report on April 2, Harris, who suspects the underlying trend in private payrolls may be slightly positive, forecast payrolls to rise 135,000 in March. "We estimate temporary hiring for the 2010 Census of 45,000. And we allow for some payback for blizzard-related layoffs in February -- around 40,000."
Company NewsThe financial sector held on to broad gains at the close, as Bank of America ( BAC) and American Express ( AXP) finished in positive territory on the Dow. Walt Disney ( DIS) and Microsoft ( MSFT) finished as the blue-chip average's leaders. DuPont ( DD), Alcoa ( AA) and Pfizer ( PFE) were the Dow's biggest laggards.
Commodities and the Dollar