Stocks quoted in this article:
This morning, a bevy of economic data was released, beginning with initial jobless claims. First-time claims for unemployment fell 23,000 to 333,000 for the week, although the number of people actually receiving benefits climbed. The four-week average number of people receiving benefits is the highest since late 1996.
Wall Street expected today's number to be closer to 4,000, but this news should not affect the stock or bond markets significantly. This week's figures are subject to more revisions than usual because 18 states used estimates, due to holiday closures.
November existing home sales rose 4.4-percent on a seasonally adjusted basis, after a decline of 3.1-percent in October. Wall Street expected a 1.4- percent increase, but the stronger sales are not expected to impact the market or the Fed's decision on interest rates. Lower mortgage rates may have fueled the larger-than-expected rise.
Consumer confidence has fallen to its lowest measure in two years. The index fell to 128.3 from 132.6 last month, indicating further slowing of the economy lays ahead. An even sharper decline occurred in consumers' expectations for the economy six months down the road, which is disconcerting.