A continued increase in long-term rates is expected to weigh on stocks, as other investment types become more attractive to investors. According to the FOMC minutes, committee members "confirmed that they were broadly comfortable" with views expressed by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke at a press conference in June. "Under that outlook, if economic conditions improved broadly as expected, the Committee would moderate the pace of its securities purchases later this year. And if economic conditions continued to develop broadly as anticipated, the Committee would reduce the pace of purchases in measured steps and conclude the purchase program around the middle of 2014." "In our view, the base case for the FOMC still appears to be a tapering announcement at the September 18 FOMC meeting, assuming no major surprises in the key economic data (i.e., August jobs report) and financial conditions," UBS economist Maury Harris wrote in a note to clients Thursday. "We still expect the initial adjustment will be modest: a $10 billion reduction--split evenly between Treasuries and MBS," he added. The Labor Department on Thursday said first-time unemployment claims for the week ended Aug. 17 increased to 336,000 from an upwardly revised 323,000 the previous week. Jobless claims came in above the consensus estimate of 330,000, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The partial reversal of the previous week's sharp decline in unemployment claims may have soothed investors concerned about a heating economy and rising interest rates, especially following the release of the FOMC minutes.