The major averages closed mixed on Thursday, as large-cap technology continues to trend higher. Most sectors in the S&P 500 index were lower, led down by Energy shares. Cyclicals bucked the trend. Amazon shares continued to rally, helping the discretionary sector notch up gains. Jobless claims declined more than expected, which helped buoy the 10-years yield. Oil prices edged lower, despite mixed inventory reports, which showed a net loss in stockpiles. Housing Starts and Building Permits came in stronger than expected, reflecting robust home sales driven by low-interest rates. President Joe Biden on signed an executive order requiring masks to be worn on airplanes, trains, buses and at airports. The Trump administration declined to mandate masks in air travel and other transportation modes.
Jobless Claims Fall More than Expected
The Labor Department reported that jobless claims totaled 900,000 for the week ended January 16. That was slightly less than expectations of 925,000 and below the previous week’s downwardly revised total of 926,000. Continuing claims showed a slight decrease for the week, falling by 127,000 to 5.05 million.
Housing Starts Rose more than Expected
According to the Commerce Department, Housing starts increased by 5.8% to an annual rate of 1.669 million units in December. Expectations were for Housing starts to rise to a rate of 1.560 million units in December. Homebuilding increased 5.2% on a year overyear. Starts totaled 1.380 million in 2020, up 7.0% from 2019. Building Permits for future homebuilding accelerated 4.5% to a rate of 1.709 million units in December. Permits, which typically lead starts by one to two months, totaled 1.452 million last year, a 4.8% increase from 2019.