U.S. stocks lower as E.Z. growth concerns weigh; Dow Jones down 0.19%


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Investing.com - U.S. stocks opened lower on Thursday, despite upbeat jobless claims data from the U.S., as renewed concerns over the worsening of the financial crisis in the euro zone dampened market sentiment.

During early U.S. trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.19%, the S&P 500 index slipped 0.16%, while the Nasdaq Composite index shed 0.30%.

The Department of Labor said the number of people who filed for unemployment assistance in the U.S. last week fell by 27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 341,000, compared to expectations for a decline of 8,000 to 360,000.

Jobless claims for the preceding week were revised up to 368,000 from a previously reported gain of 366,000.

Sentiment was hit earlier, after Eurostat said euro zone gross domestic product contracted by 0.6% in the three months to December, compared to expectations for a 0.4% decline, after a 0.1% contraction in the third quarter.

In addition, official data showed larger-than-forecast contractions in German, French and Italian fourth quarter economic growth.

Financial stocks were broadly lower, as shares in Goldman Sachs inched down 0.01% and Citigroup fell 0.27%, while Bank of America and JP Morgan declined 0.37% and 0.41% respectively.

On the upside, Boeing added 0.17%, as the company denied misconduct by its managers after a union representing engineers and technical workers accused the plane maker's security staff of intimidating some members over labor contract votes.

In the same sector, the boards of American Airlines and US Airways voted to merge, creating the world's largest carrier. Doug Parker, the current CEO of U.S. Airways, is expected to take charge of the new airline.

Among earnings, H.J. Heinz soared 19.87%, following reports the maker of ketchup and other food products will be purchased by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and 3G.

General Motors added to gains, with shares jumping 1.74%, even after posting earnings short of analyst expectations, due to weak European sales.

Other stocks in focus included Agilent Technologies, PepsiCo, Molson Coors Brewing Company and CBS, all due to report earnings later in the day.

Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were lower. The EURO STOXX 50 dropped 0.91%, France's CAC 40 declined 0.61%, Germany's DAX tumbled 1.08%, while Britain's FTSE 100 declined 0.56%.

During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced 0.85%, while Japan's Nikkei 225 Index climbed 0.5%.

Also Thursday, official data showed that Japan's economy contracted by 0.1% in the fourth quarter, compared to expectations for an uptick of 0.1%.

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