Economic figures worrying; stocks mixed
A batch of worrying economic figures tugged stock markets slightly lower Thursday. Measures of manufacturing and business activity in China and Europe slumped. In the United States, the Norfolk Southern railroad warned it's shipping fewer goods, and the government offered another reminder the job market remains weak.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 18.97 points to 13,596.93. Kraft Foods led the Dow up with a 1.86 percent surge to $41.60. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.05 percent to 1,460.26. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 0.21 percent to 3,175.96. Three stocks fell for every two that rose on the New York Stock Exchange.
Market indexes reached four-year highs last week after the Federal Reserve unveiled a new plan to support the economy. Clark Yingst, chief market analyst at the securities firm Joseph Gunnar, said economic reports continue to draw a picture of an economic recovery stuck in low gear. "You do have to wonder what the next catalyst is going to be," he said.
The Labor Department reported 382,000 people applied for unemployment benefits last week, more than economists had expected. When applications consistently top 375,000, it suggests hiring is too weak to lower the unemployment rate.