U.S. jobless claims dropped by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000 in the week ended Jan. 28, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had estimated claims would drop to 370,000. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up by 2,000 to 379,000. The four-week average of claims, meanwhile, fell a smaller 2,000 to 375,750. The monthly average smoothes out seasonal quirks and provides a more accurate assessment of labor-market trends, economists say. Also on Thursday, the government said continuing claims decreased by 130,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.44 million in the week ended Jan. 21. Continuing claims are reported with a one-week lag. About 7.67 million people received some kind of state or federal benefit in the week ended Jan. 14, virtually unchanged from the prior week. Total claims are reported with a two-week lag.
U.S. productivity rose 0.7% in the final three months of 2011, according to a preliminary reading by the Labor Department. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected productivity among nonfarm businesses to increase by 0.6%. The amount of goods and services produced, known as real output, grew at an annual rate of 3.6%. Yet hours worked rose almost as fast, up 2.9%, and hourly compensation climbed 1.9%. As a result, unit-labor costs went up 1.2% after a revised 2.1% decrease in the third quarter. Unit-labor costs had been forecast to rise 0.8%. The increase in third-quarter productivity, meanwhile, was revised down to 1.9% from 2.3%.
Facebook launched the process for its highly anticipated stock market debut, filing papers for a $5bn initial public offering that will turn key shareholders into billionaires, most notably Mark Zuckerberg, the 27-year-old chief executive and co-founder.
China supports European efforts to stabilize the euro and is looking into how it can help resolve the region’s debt crisis, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said at a briefing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Wen said solving the European debt crisis is “urgent,” and called for greater international cooperation. “China is also considering more participation” in those efforts via the European Financial Stability Facility and the European Stabilization Mechanism, he said.
Merkel’s three-day visit comes as European leaders are trying to raise money to address the region’s sovereign debt crisis. China, owner of the world’s largest foreign currency reserves, has said that while it’s willing to help, it wants more details on Europe’s plans, which could include setting up funding through the International Monetary Fund.
China is “investigating and evaluating ways, through the IMF, to be more deeply involved using the ESM and EFSF channels in solving the European debt issue,” Wen said.
Stocks to Watch
Among the companies whose shares are expected to actively trade in Thursday’s session are Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM), Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (CMG) and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. (GMCR).
Qualcomm’s fiscal first-quarter profit jumped 20% as the chip maker’s strong exposure to surging smartphone sales continued to boost revenue. The company also raised its full-year adjusted earnings forecast and boosted its top-line estimate. Shares were up 5% to $62.54 after hours on the better-than-expected results and bullish guidance.
Chipotle’s fourth-quarter earnings rose 24% as the fast-casual burrito chain’s price increases and higher traffic offset increases in commodity costs. Shares were down 1.9% at $363.40 after hours as the company predicted same-store sales growth would abate in 2012 and reported earnings per share short of expectations in the fourth quarter.
Green Mountain’s fiscal first-quarter profit surged as sales of K-Cup portion packs more than doubled. Shares of the company jumped 22% to $65.25 after hours as results beat the company’s expectations.
Overnight Headlines (Links) WORLD/U.S.