The number of Americans lining up for new jobless benefits fell to the lowest level in nearly four years last week, according to a government report that showed ongoing healing in the labor market.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 357,000, the lowest since April 2008, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Employers in the U.S. announced fewer job cuts in March than a year earlier, another sign of healing in the labor market.
Planned firings fell by 8.8 percent from March 2011 to a 10-month low of 37,880, according to figures released today by Chicago-based job placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Job cuts at government and nonprofit agencies were down 86 percent last quarter compared with the same period in 2011, the report showed.
European shares were down Thursday, with investors remaining skeptical about Europe’s prospects of avoiding another recession, and sentiment further dampened by Spain’s poorly supported bond sale on Wednesday. Tepid demand for France’s 8.4 billion euro bond auction on Thursday exerted further downward pressure.
The Bank of England released its latest interest rate decision at 7 a.m. New York time on Thursday, holding base rates at record low 0.5 percent.
There was good news from China early on Thursday, with HSBC’s Purchasing Managers Index showing a steady increase in service sector activity in March, and business confidence at an 11-month high.
The Bank of England kept its main interest rate at a record low on Thursday because of concerns about higher energy prices and the continuing economic crisis on the European continent.
Britain’s central bank left the interest rate unchanged at 0.5 percent. The Bank of England also kept its bond purchasing program at £325 billion, or $517 billion, as expected.
Polycom [PLCM 18.19 ]– The videoconferencing company has cut its first-quarter outlook to 21 cents to 23 cents per share, compared to analyst estimates of 30 cents. Polycom says its business in the North American and Asia Pacific markets has been weaker than expected.
PMC-Sierra [PMCS 7.69 ] – Reuters reports the chipmaker has held talks with potential buyers over the past few months. PMC currently has a market cap of about $1.8 billion.
Bed Bath & Beyond [BBBY 66.23 ] – The retailer earned $1.48 per share for its fourth quarter, 15 cents above estimates. Overall sales were in line with consensus, but same-store sales beat forecasts despite profit margin pressures.
Ruby Tuesday [RT 8.88 ] – The restaurant operator is reporting fiscal third-quarter profit of 18 cents a share, two cents above estimates. However, revenues were short of consensus, and the company’s 2012 guidance of 43 to 48 cents a share is well below Street estimates of 56 cents per share.
Zumiez [ZUMZ 36.95 ] – The sports apparel and footwear retailer is reporting a same-store sales increase of 14.1 percent for the five weeks ending April 2, well above StreetAccount estimates of an 8.9 percent gain.
JPMorgan Chase [JPM 44.41 ] – CEO Jamie Dimon made positive comments about the company’s 2011 performance in a letter to shareholders, although he did add that mortgage-related losses prevented the year from being better.
Cinemark [CNK 21.99 ] – The movie theater operator’s stock is being added to the S&P MidCap 400 after the closing of trading April 9. It will replace utility company NSTAR [NST 48.58 — UNCH ], which is being acquired by Northeast Utilities [NU 37.03 — UNCH ].
Carmike Cinemas [CKEC 14.53 ] – The company announced a secondary offering of 4 million shares, with the underwriters being granted options to buy up to an additional 600,000 shares.
Dick’s Sporting Goods [DKS 48.65 — UNCH ] – The retailer is buying the Top-Flite golf equipment trademark from Callaway Golf [ELY 6.78 — UNCH ] for an undisclosed price. Separately, Dick’s is investing $31.8 million in British sporting goods company JJB Sports.
Costco Wholesale [COST 89.04 ] – The nation’s largest warehouse retailer reported a March same-store sales increase of 6 percent, slightly short of estimates of a 6.7 percent increase.
Apple [AAPL 624.31 ] – Jefferies has boosted its price target for Apple to $800, after adding earnings from Apple’s expected but still unannounced iTV launch into its estimates.
Limited Brands [LTD 48.69 ] – The retailer saw same-store sales jump by 8 percent in March, above estimates of a 4.4 percent increase.
CarMax [KMX 34.92 ] – The nation’s largest seller of pre-owned vehicles earned 41 cents a share for its latest quarter, one cent above estimates, with revenues also beating consensus. The company says it’s benefiting from an expansion in its store base, among other factors.
Spectrum Pharmaceuticals [SPPI 12.21 ] – The drug maker’s experimental bladder cancer drug failed to meet goals in a late stage trial. Separately, Spectrum announced it’s buying Allos Therapeutics [ALTH 1.43 ] for $206 million or $1.82 a share.
Charming Shoppes [CHRS 6.10 ] – The New York Post reports that the retailer is reaching out to bidders it had previously rejected in hopes of salvaging a buyout of the company.