The US markets heralded the beginning of third-quarter earnings season by finishing slightly lower on Thursday, even as Wall Street banks turned in generally upbeat results. Banks kicked off what is likely to be strong season of third-quarter corporate results. Fed Governor Jerome Powell said that emerging markets should be able to withstand the Fed's tightening initiatives, which could boost the dollar. He also described asset prices as elevated. Ex-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank should adopt temporary price-level targeting when interest rates next get stuck at zero.
On the economy front, initial weekly jobless claims fell by 15,000 to 243,000 in early October to mark the lowest level in six weeks. The more stable monthly average of new claims dropped by 9,500 to 257,500 in the week ended October 7. The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits, known as continuing claims, fell by 32,000 to 1.89 million. That's the lowest since the end of 1973. Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits as more people went back to work in Texas and Florida. A pair of major hurricanes, Irma and Harvey, temporarily prevented many people from working. Jobless claims are still unusually low in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. The lack of electricity has prevented people from filing claims and the island from processing them. These claims could surge in the next few weeks.
Separately, the producer price index jumped 0.4% in September. Another measure preferred by economists, known as core PPI, rose a smaller 0.2%. The core rate strips out food, energy and trade margins. The increase in the PPI pushed the 12-month rate of wholesale inflation to 2.6%, the highest level since February of 2012. Most of the increase in wholesale prices last month was tied to a run-up in gasoline prices after Hurricane Harvey knocked several major oil refineries off line. Higher margin for retailers, a volatile category that often distorts the PPI report, was another factor. Wholesale inflation was more subdued if trade, energy and food are stripped out of the equation. Prices of those goods can swing sharply from month to month and exaggerate inflationary trends.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 31.88 points or 0.14 percent to 22,841.01, the Nasdaq dropped 12.04 points or 0.18 percent to 6,591.51, and the S&P 500 edged lower by 4.31 points or 0.17 percent to 2,550.93.