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The markets ended the day little changed Thursday as traders mulled mixed economic data and prepared for earnings from two financial heavyweights.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 18.9 points, or 0.14%, to 13326, the S&P 500 gained 1.5 points, or 0.1%, to 1434 and the Nasdaq Composite dipped 0.27 point, or 0.01%, to 3052.
The broad S&P 500 barely snapped a four-day losing streak. However, the Nasdaq ended in the red for the fifth day in a row -- its longest losing streak in three months.
Analysts have cited growing concerns about the global economy and future corporate profits as leading reasons for the swift decline seen on Wall Street. Earnings are due on Friday from J.P. Morgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), two of America's biggest banks.
There were a handful of economic reports that helped shed more light on the situation.
The Labor Department reported new claims for unemployment benefits fell to 339,000 last week from an upwardly revised 369,000 the week prior. Claims were expected to rise to 370,000 from an initially reported 367,000. However, a Labor Department official told FOX Business that one large state did not fully report its weekly numbers, which could have skewed the data to the downside.
Barclays’ Micahel Gapen wrote in a note to clients that “given the potential noise associated with the start of the quarter and the application of seasonal factors, we suggest focusing on the longer-term trends.”
He recommends looking at the four-week-moving average, a measure that helps mitigate volatility. That gauge fell to 364,000 from 375,500.
The Commerce Department said the U.S. trade deficit widened to $44.2 billion in August from $42.5 in July. Economists were expecting a deficit of $44 billion. A separate report showed U.S. import prices rose 1.1% in September from August, topping estimates of 0.7%. Export prices rose 0.8%, coming in ahead of estimates of 0.4%.
On the European front, Standard & Poor's chopped Spain's credit rating down two notches to 'BBB-' as the country faces mounting economic and political pressures. The rating now stands just one level above junk status. S&P also kept its outlook on the embattled country at negative.
Traders broadly shrugged the move off. Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG, wrote in a note to clients that "there isn’t much surprising in the rationale" S&P used.
In commodities, oil prices rallied ahead of the weekly inventory report from the Energy Department. The benchmark contract traded in New York climbed 82 cents, or 0.9%, to $92.07 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline slipped 0.13% to $2.956 a gallon.
In metals, gold prices rose $5.50, or 0.31%, to $1,771 a troy ounce.
The Euro Stoxx 50 rallied 1.2% to 2487, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.92% to 5830 and the German DAX climbed 1.1% to 7282.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slipped 0.58% to 8545 and the Japanese Nikkei 225 rose 0.38% to 20999.