Drop in jobless claims helps end blue-chip losing streak

U.S. blue-chip stocks broke their longest losing streak in nine months Thursday, helped by a dip in jobless claims and signs of stabilization in Europe, but a steep drop in Cisco Systems Inc. helped send the Nasdaq Composite Index lower.

After a six-session string of losses, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 19.98 points, or 0.2 percent, to 12,855.04. At its high, it rose more than 96 points. The index rapidly lost ground in the last hour, briefly turning lower.

Nineteen of the Dow’s 30 components advanced, with Cisco a notable weight. Shares in the maker of computer-networking gear slid 10 percent, their worst day in 15 months.

Along with a slight drop in International Business Machines Corp., both did the most to cool the price-weighted Dow’s gains.

The S&P 500 Index also ended up but off its highs of the day, gaining 3.41 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,357.99.

Weekly jobless applications suggest hiring could pick up

The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits ticked down last week following a sharp drop the previous week.

Applications are falling again after rising for most of April, suggesting hiring could pick up this month.

Weekly applications dropped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000 in the week ending May 5, the Labor Department said Thursday. The previous week’s figure was revised up slightly.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell by 5,250 to 379,000. It was the first decline since late March.

Applications are a measure of the pace of layoffs. When they stay consistently below 375,000, it suggests job growth is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

The April spike in applications coincided with weaker hiring this spring. Employers added an average of 135,000 jobs per month in March and April – well below the pace from the previous three months. That raised fears that the job market is sputtering.

— From news service reports