Stocks end lower after unemployment rises

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks slipped Thursday after the government reported an increase in applications for unemployment benefits last week.

The Labor Department said Thursday that 409,000 people made claims for benefits for the first time. That’s up 18,000 from the previous week, when applications fell to their lowest level in more than two years.

The report came a day after ADP estimated that companies added nearly 300,000 jobs last month, far more than the 100,000 economists expected. That pushed stock prices higher and Treasury prices lower as investors became more optimistic about the job market.

The most important news on the job market will arrive on Friday morning when the Labor Department releases its monthly survey of all U.S. payrolls and the unemployment rate. Economists expect the rate fell to 9.7 percent in December from 9.8 percent the previous month.

“At worst unemployment is flat. At best it’s coming down,” said James O’Sullivan, chief economist at MF Global in New York.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 25.58 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 11,697.31.

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