Jobless Claims Continue Decline, Leading Indicators Up, Stocks Begin Lower
Continuing their fall for the second consecutive week, jobless claims have dropped to a 4-year low as reports were released Thursday reflecting the week of March 17th. Overall applications for unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to hit 348,000 while four-week averages fell 1,250 to 355,000 and continuing claims dropped 9,000 to the seasonally adjusted figure of 3.35 million.
The Conference Board reported that Leading Economic Indicators rose 0.7 percent in February to 95.5, the third straight monthly increase.
The gains indicate improved economic activity going forward but not as robust as most recoveries.
From the report, “The CEI for the United States, a measure of current economic conditions, has also been rising as employment, income, and sales data all continue to improve. Industrial production, however, has not yet picked up strongly.”
Added Ken Goldstein, economist at The Conference Board: “Recent data reflect an economy that improved this winter. To be sure, an unseasonably mild winter has contributed to many of the recent positive economic reports. But the consistent signal for the leading series suggests that progress on jobs, output, and incomes may continue through the summer months, if not beyond.” Full Report
Major index ETFs didn’t like today’s news, although economic reports were mostly positive.
In early trade, the S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY) is down 1.3%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (NYSEARCA:DIA) dropped 145 points or 1.1%, the Russell 2000 (NYSEARCA:IWM) shed 1.3% and the Nasdaq 100 (NYSEARCA:QQQ) declined 0.7%.
Bottom line: Major U.S. indexes and ETFs are coming off overbought conditions on a technical basis as they respond to slowing economic growth around the world. Potential opportunity might be found in put options, inverse ETFs and ETFs that positively correlate to the VIX if this correction should continue.
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