Markets on Track for Worst Week of 2012


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The markets posted a tepid performance on Thursday, teetering on closing out the holiday-shortened trading week with the biggest loss of 2012.

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Today's Markets

As of 3:19 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 27.8 points, or 0.21%, to 13047, the S&P 500 dipped 2 points, or 0.14%, to 1397 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 7.9 points, or 0.26%, to 3076.

The Nasdaq took its worst fall since December on Wednesday, while the S&P dropped by the most in almost a month as sentiment across global equity markets turned more bearish. Traders have grown concerned once again about the debt crisis in Spain after the country struggled to meet a target in a recent auction and has seen yields begin climbing once again. Higher yields, analysts say, will make it more difficult for the country to reach its deficit-cutting target.

The labor market is coming into focus with the monthly jobs report on tap for Friday.

New claims for unemployment benefits fell to 357,000 last week -- the lowest level since April 2008 -- from an upwardly-revised 363,000, the Labor Department reported. Claims were expected to fall to 355,000 from an initially reported 359,000.

Planned job cuts among U.S. employers fell 27% in March from February to 37,880, according to a report Thursday by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Layoffs are now at the lowest level in 10 months.

The number of jobless claims has consistently sat under the 400,000 level, which many economists say points to continued improvement in the labor market.

Thursday is the last day of equity trading for the week, with stock markets closed for the Good Friday holiday. However, stock-index futures along with precious metal and commodity futures trading will be open for a short time on Friday morning.

Oil rebounded in New York trading after a steep selloff on Wednesday. The benchmark contract climbed $1.84, or 1.8%, to $103.31 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline gained 0.21% to $3.334 a gallon.

In metals, gold jumped $16.00, or 0.99%, to $1,630 a troy ounce. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell 0.045-percentage point to 2.184%.

On the corporate front, many big-name retailers report monthly sales results on the day. Target (NYSE:TGT) boosted its first-quarter earnings outlook after its same-store sales jumped 7.3% in March, bigger than the 5.4% analysts expected. Macy's (NYSE:M) also beat expectations, reporting a 7.3% same-store increase, compared with forecasts of 4.8%.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips fell 0.25%, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.35% to 5724 and the German DAX dropped 0.13% to 6775.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slipped 0.53% to 9768 and the Chinese Hang Seng sold off by 0.95% to 20593.

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