NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks clawed back from session lows on Thursday as Wall Street came to terms with easing statements from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi that investors mostly alreasy has heard.
"It's kind of the buy-the-rumor, sell-the-fact [reaction]," said Anthony Valeri, investment strategist for LPL Financial, in a call. "But I think QE should ultimately be longer-term positive for European markets. Most of it is the fact that much of this has been priced in over the past few months."
As expected, Draghi remained vague on timing of further quantitative easing plans, only noting that the "Governing Council will reassess the monetary stimulus achieved" early next year.
"In other words, like the Federal Reserve, the next move by the ECB -- both when and what -- will depend on the progression of the data," Sterne Agee's chief economist Lindsey Piegza wrote in a report. "It remains obvious the ECB is ready to take action if needed, potentially considering a plethora of asset classes save gold."
Easing plans could come as soon as January, Valeri added. "Lowering the growth expectations, lowering inflation forecast, some of the cautionary comments he made all suggest that QE is coming," he said. "It's been telegraphed in prior meetings but this was the latest and probably strongest voice supporting outright bond purchases."
The central bank cut its 2015 growth forecasts for the region to 1% from a September forecast of 1.6%. Eurozone inflation is expected to come in at 0.7%, down from a previous estimate of 1.1% and far from the ECB's 2% target.
The ECB announced earlier Thursday that it was leaving its key rate unchanged at 0.05%. Last month, the central bank announced it had begun to purchase asset-backed securities in a move to stimulate the eurozone, which has suffered from slowing manufacturing and high unemployment.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was just 0.05% lower than its record high on Wednesday while the S&P 500 was flat. The Nasdaq was 0.11% higher.
Crude oil prices were falling again with West Texas Intermediate dropping 0.92% to below $67 a barrel. Major oilers, which had climbed earlier in the week, were falling on Thursday. Exxon Mobil (XOM) slid 0.49%, Chevron (CVX) dropped 1.2% and BP (BP) fell 1.9%.
U.S. jobless claims came in just above economists' estimates for a total 295,000. A week earlier, claims climbed above 300,000 for the first time since September. The release comes ahead of the Labor Department's monthly jobs figures on Friday. Economists expect 230,000 jobs to have been added over the month, higher than October's 214,000 total. The unemployment rate is forecast to remain at 5.8%.
Teen retailer Aeropostale (ARO) said it expects a fourth-quarter loss as deep as 44 cents a share, wider than analysts forecast. Shares slid 26.3%. Dollar General (DG) popped 2.3% after the discount retailer reported net income of 78 cents a share, 2 cents short of estimates.
Though beating third-quarter earnings estimates, Guess? (GES) issued disappointing net income between 53 cents and 63 cents a share for its fourth quarter. Analysts expected 69 cents a share. The stock tumbled nearly 10%.
Plug Power (PLUG) announced a multi-year contract worth $20 million with an undisclosed telecom company, sending shares surging 6%.
Barnes & Noble (BKS) fell more than 3% after revenue slipped 2.3% year over year. The book retailer said it would purchase Microsoft's (MSFT) stake in its Nook Media unit for $62.4 million in cash and 2.7 million shares.
-- Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.