Stocks slumped in afternoon trading on Thursday, erasing gains seen earlier in the day after a report showed that U.S. jobless claims fell to their lowest levels in more than four years.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,326.39, down 18.58 points or 0.1 per cent – down more than 100 points from its earlier high. The broader S&P 500 closed at 1432.84, up 0.28 point or zero per cent. – narrowly snapping a four-day losing streak for the benchmark index. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,233.95, up 21.53 points or 0.2 per cent.
Stocks had rallied at the start of trading, after the Labor Department reported that U.S. initial jobless claims fell to their lowest level since February 2008. For the period ended last week, claims fell to 339,000, down 30,000. Economists had been expecting a reading of 370,000.
The decline follows last week's report on monthly payrolls, which showed a sizable drop in the unemployment rate and held out some hope that the long-stagnant employment landscape is starting to improve.
Key commodities moved slightly higher. Crude oil rose to $92.07 (U.S.) a barrel, up 82 cents. Gold rose to $1,770.60 an ounce, up $5.50. Among Canadian commodity producers, Suncor Energy Inc. fell 0.2 per cent and Barrick Gold Corp. fell 0.9 per cent
Sprint Nextel Corp. rose 14.3 per cent on a report from the Wall Street Journal that Japan's Softbank Corp. is in talks to buy a 70 per cent stake in the U.S. wireless carrier.