By RTT News,
December 12, 2013, 12:06:00 PM EDT
(RTTNews.com) - After ending the previous session sharply lower, stocks have seen some further downside during trading on Thursday. Worries about the outlook for the Federal Reserve's stimulus program continue to weigh on the markets.
Currently, the major averages are all in negative territory, although the Nasdaq is down only 0.74 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 4,003.07. The Dow is down 89.55 points or 0.6 percent at 15,753.98 and the S&P 500 is down 4.93 points or 0.3 percent at 1,777.29.
The weakness on Wall Street reflects continued concerns about the outlook for the Fed's asset purchase program following the release of upbeat retail sales data.
Before the start of trading, the Commerce Department released a report showing slightly stronger than expected retail sales growth in the month of November, suggesting that the holiday shopping season began on an upbeat note.
The report said retail sales rose by 0.7 percent in November following an upwardly revised increase of 0.6 percent in October. Economists had expected sales to increase by 0.6 percent compared to the 0.4 percent growth originally reported for the previous month.
Excluding a 1.8 percent jump in auto sales, retail sales increased by 0.4 percent in November compared to economist estimates for a 0.2 percent uptick.
While the Labor Department released a separate report showing a sharp jump in weekly jobless claims, the data has largely been shrugged off due to seasonal factors.
The report said initial jobless claims jumped to 368,000, an increase of 68,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 300,000. Economists had been expecting claims to climb to 325,000 from the 298,000 originally reported for the previous week.
The Labor Department attributed the volatility seen over the past two weeks to the difficulty performing seasonal adjustments around holidays such as Thanksgiving.
Rob Carnell, chief international economist at ING, said, "The Labor Department puts this surge down to the difficulties of dealing with the Thanksgiving period, so our suggestion is to ignore this data and focus more on the strength in the sales data."
After falling sharply in early trading, gold stocks continue to see significant weakness on the day. The NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index is down by 2.4 percent, although it has climbed off the five-year low set earlier in the session.
The weakness among gold stocks comes amid a sharp drop by the price of the precious metal, with gold for February delivery tumbling $29.30 to $1,227.90 an ounce.
Networking stocks have also come under pressure, dragging the NYSE Arca Networking Index down by 1.5 percent. Ciena ( CIEN ) has helped lead the sector lower after reporting weaker than expected fourth quarter adjusted earnings.
Telecom, semiconductor, and tobacco stocks are also seeing some weakness in mid-day trading, although selling pressure is relatively subdued.
Meanwhile, biotechnology stocks have shown a strong move to the upside on the day, resulting in a 1 percent gain by the NYSE Arca Biotechnology Index. InterMune ( ITMN ) is posting a standout gain, surging up by 5.1 percent.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region saw continued weakness during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index dropped by 1.1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended the day down by 0.5 percent.
The major European markets also moved to the downside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index fell by 1 percent, the German DAX Index slid by 0.7 percent and the French CAC 40 Index dipped by 0.4 percent.
In the bond market, treasuries have come under pressure on the heels of the upbeat retail sales data. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 4.1 basis points at 2.885 percent.
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