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US markets end lower on weak retail sales

The US markets ended mostly in red on Thursday after a report from the Commerce Department unexpectedly showed a substantial decrease in retail sales in December, increasing the appeal of safe havens like bonds. The Commerce Department said retail sales tumbled by 1.2 percent in December after inching up by a revised 0.1 percent in November. Street had expected retail sales to rise by 0.2 percent, matching the uptick originally reported for the previous month. Excluding a jump in auto sales, retail sales plunged by an even steeper 1.8 percent in December after coming in unchanged in November. Ex-auto sales had been expected to edge up by 0.1 percent. Meanwhile, a report released by the Labor Department showed first-time claims for US unemployment benefits unexpectedly increased in the week ended February 9th. The report said initial jobless claims rose to 239,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week's revised level of 235,000. Street had expected jobless claims to drop to 225,000 from the 234,000 originally reported for the previous week.

The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average climbed to 231,750, an increase of 6,750 from the previous week's revised average of 225,000. With the increase, the four-week moving average reached its highest level since hitting 234,000 in late January of 2018. Continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, increased by 37,000 to 1.773 million in the week ended February 2nd. Besides, some cautiousness also prevailed in the markets as President Trump prepared to sign a new budget deal to avoid a second government shutdown. In signing the legislation, the president will also declare a national emergency to build his proposed border wall with Mexico.

Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 103.88 points or 0.41 percent to 25439.39 and S&P 500 was down 7.30 points or 0.27 percent to 2745.73, while Nasdaq gained 6.58 points or 0.09 percent to 7426.96.

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