What Might Move the Dow Today

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The market continued its slide after Tuesday's release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting and an uneasy Spanish bond auction, and now we look to some hints at unemployment figures with today's initial and continuing claims reports. Here's a breakdown on what these reports could mean for the overall Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) before the final day of the short trading week.

Unemployment
Initial claims, which tracks the number of people filing for jobless benefits, were reported at 359,000 last week. This week, the market expects these claims to be a hair lower, at 355,000. For continuing claims, the market expects a small increase to 3.36 million, over last week's 3.34 million. Looking at the average jobless claims over the past decade, the country trends toward pre-recession lows:

US Average Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance Chart


US Average Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance data by YCharts

These reports are a prelude to tomorrow's employment report, which is expected to show an unchanged unemployment rate of 8.3%. Because of the Good Friday holiday tomorrow, any market reaction to the employment report will be seen on Monday. With little positive news expected from either report, investors will have to look elsewhere for news to bolster the market sentiment.

Yesterday's losses
General Electric's (NYS: GE) credit rating was downgraded yesterday, as Moody's cited risks at GE Capital. However, the stock's decline of 1.1% was in line with the Dow's loss of 0.94%, as investors agreed with GE's defense that its credit position has "only improved in the past few years."

JPMorgan Chase (NYS: JPM) suffered more than a 2% decline and Bank of America (NYS: BAC) took a 3% hit yesterday. JPMorgan was fined $20 million by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for mishandling customer funds related to the Lehman Brothers liquidation. Even with yesterday's rough trading session, Bank of America still remains up more than 65% for the year.

Also leading the losses was Alcoa (NYS: AA) , losing 2.49%. RBC Capital lowered its earnings estimate for the company based on increased energy costs, among other worries. Alcoa will release first-quarter earnings on April 10.

No matter what ...
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At the time this article was published Fool contributorDan Newmanholds no shares of the companies mentioned above. Follow him on Twitter, where he goes by @TMFHelloNewman. The Motley Fool owns shares of JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

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