US stocks edge up after jobless claims drop

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks moved slightly higher in early trading Thursday after the government reported that the number of people applying for unemployment benefits sank last week, a sign that employers are laying off fewer people.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose three points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,914, three points above its record close of 1,911 reached on Tuesday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 20 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,653 and the Nasdaq composite rose 10 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,235.

TASTES LIKE CHICKEN: Hillshire Brands shot up $6.97, or 16 percent, to $51.76. Chicken company Tyson Foods made a $6.2 billion offer for the deli meats and hotdog maker, two days after Pilgrim's Pride made a $5.58 billion bid for the company. The second bid is likely to start a bidding war. Hillshire is already trading above Tyson's $50-per-share offer.

WRONG WAY: The Commerce Department said Thursday that the U.S. economy shrank at an annual rate of 1 percent in the first three months of the year, worse than the government's initial estimate a month ago. The contraction was partly due to the severe weather in January and February, economists said. Investors expect the economy should rebound in the April-June period.

JOBS WATCH: The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped last week to 300,000, according to the Labor Department. The less-volatile four-week average fell to 311,500, the lowest since August, 2007.

BONDS: Long-term interest rates remained near their lows for the year. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note traded at 2.43 percent, down slightly from Wednesday. The yield, which is used to set a wide variety of lending rates, reached its lowest level in nearly a year on Wednesday. Banks and big investors from around the world continue to put money into the U.S. Treasury market, extending a rally that has taken many investors and analysts by surprise.