Unemployment Claims Fall, Markets Rise


Last week the number of people filing an unemployment claim for the first time fell to its lowest level in five years. The jobless-claims number dropped 18,000 to 324,000 this past week, whereas analysts were expecting 345,000. This is great news, because it indicates that employers are not laying off so many workers as before, allowing the economy to fall back into the normal churn of the jobs market.

Additionally, investors received good news from Europe this morning. The European Central Bank announced that it would drop its short-term interest rates to 0.5% in an attempt to help the job market in the region. Clearly, European officials are now recognizing that what the Fed has done here in the U.S. is working, and they want to try it themselves.

As of 12:45 p.m. the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 116 points, or 0.8% while the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ have gained 0.9% and 1.2%, respectively. Let's take a look at a few components that are holding the Dow back from even bigger gains.

Dow losers
Shares of UnitedHealth are down slightly, probably because of a report that the FBI and SEC have subpoenaed a number of individuals who are believed to have been involved in an April 1 leak indicating that Medicare Advantage reimbursement rates would actually increase after previously announcing a proposed 2.3% cut to rates. UnitedHealth and competitors Humana and Aetna saw share prices surge after the news broke. Nothing indicates that any of these companies were involved in any wrongdoing.

At this time though, Humana is down by 2.8%, even though the company increased full-year 2013 guidance yesterday. To read more about what management had to say, click here. Conversely, shares of Aetna are up 0.3% today after news broke that the company gave more than $14.5 million to nonprofit groups in 2012.

Shares of both Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase have been moving between positive and negative today. The moves likely come as a result of the European Central Bank's decision to keep interest rates low. The U.S. is already at record-low interest rates, and now that Europe is heading there, the banks will have an increasingly difficult time finding safe locations to park money yet still earn decent yield. This may lead them to take on more risk, which could cause big losses. B of A is even for the day, while JPMorgan is down 0.2%.

Bank of America's stock doubled in 2012. Is there more yet to come? With significant challenges still ahead, it's critical to have a solid understanding of this megabank before adding it to your portfolio. In The Motley Fool's premium research report on B of A, analysts Anand Chokkavelu and Matt Koppenheffer lift the veil on the bank's operations, detailing three reasons to buy and three reasons to sell. Click here now to claim your copy.

The article Unemployment Claims Fall, Markets Rise originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Matt Thalman owns shares of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. The Motley Fool recommends UnitedHealth Group. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. Check back Monday through Friday as Matt explains what caused the Dow's winners and losers of the day, and every Saturday for a weekly recap. Follow Matt on Twitter: @mthalman5513. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Copyright © 1995 - 2013 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.