By Geoffrey Smith
Investing.com -- U.S. stock markets opened mixed on Thursday on the back of the latest weekly jobless claims data which showed another clear but only incremental improvement in the labor market.
By 10:10 AM ET (1410 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 126 points, or less than 0.5%, at 25,941 points. The S&P 500 was up down 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite, which hit another record high on Wednesday, added another 0.5%.
Earlier, the Labor Department had said initial and continuing clalims both ground lower according to its latest data, while the previous week's numbers were also revised down. Initial claims at 1.314 million were below analysts' expectations - a rare positive surprise from an indicator that has overshot in most weeks since the pandemic erupted - while continuing claims fell nearly 700,000 to 18.06 million. That appears to reflect an increased pace of hiring.
The data weren't enough to shake off concern about the increasing momentum of the Covid-19 pandemic, in which the U.S. recorded a new daily record of 62,000 new infections on Wednesday. Deaths also rose to over 900, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
There were also further indications that the upcoming second-quarter earnings season is going to be a tough one for U.S. stocks. Walgreens Boots Alliance (NASDAQ:WBA) stock fell 7.0% after the pharmacy chain wrote down its U.K. assets by $2 billion and announced over 4,000 job cuts at its Boots operations. while Bed Bath&Beyond (NASDAQ:BBBY) stock fell 19.3% after saying it will close 200 locations in a quarterly update that also disappointed on top and bottom lines. Sales fell by 49% from a year earlier while the company's net loss only narrowed by 16%.
The pressure on United Airlines (NASDAQ:UAL) stock also continued in the wake of United's announcement that it may furlough some 45% of its workforce by October due to the drop in demand for air travel. United stock fell 3.9% while Boeing (NYSE:BA) stock fell 1.8%.
Various tech stocks continued to outperform, however, sauced by activity in the options market. Virgin Galactic (NYSE:SPCE) rose 12.8% to a two-month high after busy trade in August 2020 calls at $20 on Wednesday, while Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) stock, which briefly rallied above $1,400 earlier this week as options traders covered short call positions, rose 1.4%. Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) issued a note this week with a fair value of $780 for the stock, arguing that it was being sustained by "the power of hope" rather than fundamentals.