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U.S. stocks rose slightly in early trade after stronger-than-expected jobs data and a rise in exports.
The Commerce Department reported that the U.S. trade deficit shrank 5.1 percent to $41.55 billion in September, the smallest deficit in almost two years. The report beat economists’ expectations, suggesting economic growth in the U.S. may have been faster in the third-quarter than previously reported. Exports soared 3.1 percent, the biggest increase in more than a year.
A separate report showed a better-than-expected drop in weekly first-time claims for unemployment benefits. The Labor Department said that initial claims for state jobless benefits dropped 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 355,000.
Analysts predict the event s of Hurricane Sandy could impact the data in the coming weeks.
Several companies are gearing up to release earnings reports after the U.S. market closes on Thursday. Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) is scheduled to report fourth quarter earnings results, while Groupon Inc. (Nasdaq: GRPN), Nordstrom Inc. (NYSE: JWN), along with technology company Nvidia Corp. (Nasdaq: NVDA) and energy company PPL Corp. (NYSE: PPL) are releasing third-quarter results.
Groupon plunged 5 percent to an all-time low of $3.83 last Friday after an SEC review and on concerns that Hurricane Sandy will lower the demand for daily deals. According to a poll by FactSet, analysts expect the online deals site to report third-quarter earnings of 4 cents per share. The company’s stock has lost nearly 80 percent of its value since going public at $20 per share in November 2011. Groupon jumped 4.26 percent to $3.92 in Thursday trade.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI dropped 83.43points, or 0.65 percent, at 12,849.30. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX was down 12.71 points, or 0.91 percent, at 1,381.82. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC fell 41.70 points, or 01.42 percent, at 2,899.59.
On Wednesday, Stocks plunged as much as 2 percent as the Dow plummeted nearly 300 points. Investors' focus shifted from President Barack Obama's re-election to the looming “fiscal cliff” conflict in Congress and whether it could create another U.S. recession.