Jobless Claims Trump Revised GDP Growth

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Stocks are fighting to get into positive territory on Thursday, ahead of a long three-day weekend in celebration of Easter. We have two key reports that investors are watching closely: weekly jobless claims and the supposedly final revision of gross domestic product (GDP) for the fourth quarter of 2012.

The weekly jobless claims from the Labor Department took center stage. This is the more current of the readings, with the data being only a few days old. Weekly jobless claims rose by 16,000 to 357,000, and that is the second gain in a row and may be a signal that employment gains are abating already. Dow Jones was looking for a reading of 340,000, and many investors might have been hoping for the drop in claims to continue. Continuing claims, which we call the army of the unemployed (with a one-week lag), fell by 27,000 to 3,050,000.

Today’s revision for GDP from the Commerce Department was supposedly the final revision for the fourth quarter of 2012. This was revised to +0.4% from +0.1%, but the move confirms that the preliminary -0.1% drop was not a trend to the recessionary bias again. Instead it is just very anemic growth. Dow Jones was calling for a 0.5% gain.

S&P futures are up about tw points and DJIA futures are up about 15 points.