U.S. markets fell sharply Thursday, with positive news on unemployment claims
offset by investor concerns over monetary policy and the global business
The Labor Department said first-time unemployment claims fell by 15,000 to 320,000, the lowest number in nearly six years. The department also reported on consumer prices, which rose 0.2 percent in July, notching an annual gain of 2 percent, up from 1.8 percent in June.
The New York Federal Reserve Bank said manufacturing in the state remained positive, but the indexes showed growth slowed in August from July. Similarly, the manufacturing index for mid-Atlantic states slipped from 19.8 to 9.3, remaining positive, but indicating a slower pace of activity.
The Fed in Washington said industrial production was flat in July, owing in part to cooler weather that allowed some to turn off their air conditioners.
The National Association of Home Builders said its Housing Market Index -- a measure of builder confidence -- added 3 points in August to reach 59.
Investors, however, are at a crossroads. As the economy improves, the Federal Reserve may be more likely to pull back on its $85 billion per month quantitative easing program, which is putting pressure on interest rates. The Fed has pegged monetary policy to the unemployment rate, but could choose to abandon that concept if inflation gets out of hand.
Its stated goal is to keep inflation at 2 percent or lower.
By close of trading Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 225.47 points or 1.47 percent to reach 15,112.19. The Standard & Poor's 500 shed 24.07 points or 1.43 percent to 1,661.32.
The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index dropped 63.16 points or 1.72 percent to reach 3,661.32.
Technology stocks were jolted by Cisco Systems Inc. announcing it would cut 4,000 jobs. Chief Executive Officer John Chambers said the global business climate was "challenging and inconsistent," MarketWatch reported.
The benchmark 10-year treasury note dropped 18/32 to yield 2.785 percent.
In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index dropped 2.12 percent, 297.22 points, to 13,752.94.
In Britain, the FTSE 100 index shed 1.58 percent, 104.09 points, to 6,483.34.
Crude-oil futures were higher, adding 50 cents to $107.06 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Gold for December delivery rallied late, adding $29.30 to reach $1,362.50 a troy ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
September silver gained $1.22 cents to reach $23.92 an ounce.
The euro fell to $1.3357 Against the yen, the dollar fell to 97.18 yen.
On the Chicago Board of Trade, December delivery corn futures added 17 3/4 cents to $4.73 per bushel. Soybeans for November gained 25 3/4 cents to $12.64 3/4 per bushel. December wheat gained 6 1/2 cents to reach $6.49 1/4 per bushel.
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