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US markets end lower on Thursday

The US markets ended lower on Thursday, with the Nasdaq Composite Index teetering on the edge of a bear market, as worries mounted about a possible government shutdown and the Federal Reserve's latest guidance on interest rates. President Donald Trump told House Republicans he is unwilling to sign a short-term spending bill approved by the Senate due to a lack of funding for his controversial border wall. The Senate bill passed by a voice vote Wednesday night would fund key government agencies through February 8, but pushes a debate over funding for the border wall into the next Congress. Further, renewed concerns about US-China trade talks also weighed on the markets after the Justice Department announced the criminal indictment of two computer hackers associated with the Chinese government. The unsealed indictment charges the two Chinese nationals with conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

On the economic front, after reporting a notable decrease in first-time claims for US unemployment benefits in the previous week, the Labor Department released a report showing initial jobless claims rebounded in the week ended December 15. The report said initial jobless claims rose to 214,000, an increase of 8,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 206,000. Street had expected jobless claims to climb to 216,000. The slightly smaller-than-expected rebound came after jobless claims fell to their lowest level in nearly three months in the previous week. Meanwhile, a report released by the Conference Board showed a modest increase by leading US economic indicators in the month of November. The Conference Board said its leading economic index rose by 0.2 percent in November after falling by a revised 0.3 percent in October. Street had expected the index to come in unchanged compared to the 0.1 percent uptick originally reported for the previous month.

Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 464.06 points or 1.99 percent to 22859.60, Nasdaq plunged 108.42 points or 1.63 percent to 6528.41 and S&P 500 was down by 39.54 points or 1.58 percent to 2467.42.

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