U.S. stocks pared early gains to close mixed Thursday, as investors digested a string of economic reports.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 15.55 points, or 0.07 percent, to 20,934.55. The S&P 500 decreased 3.88 points, or 0.16 percent, to 2,381.38. The Nasdaq Composite Index edged down 0.71 point, or 0.01 percent, to 5,900.76.

U.S. privately-owned housing starts in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,288,000, beating market consensus, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

This is 3.0 percent above the revised January estimate of 1,251,000 and is 6.2 percent above the February 2016 rate of 1,213,000.

“The unseasonably mild winter likely contributed to the continued improvement in home construction in 2017 as starts continued to advance. Outside any weather related pick-up, the increase in single-family starts and permits in February to nearly the highest level in a decade is a positive sign for the housing market,” said Sophia Kearney-Lederman, an economic analyst at FTN Financial.

In the week ending March 11, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 241,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 243,000, the U.S. Labor department announced Thursday.

In a separate report, the department said that the number of job openings was little changed at 5.6 million on the last business day of January.

Meanwhile, investors were still assessing the impacts of the Federal Reserve’s rate hike decision. The U.S. central bank on Wednesday raised interest rates for the third time since the 2008 global financial crisis, with the job market strengthening and inflation rising toward its target.

“In view of realized and expected labor market conditions and inflation,” the Fed decided to raise the target range for the federal funds rate by 25 basis points to 0.75-1.0 percent, the Fed’s policy-making committee said in a statement released after its two-day meeting. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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