Markets move higher
NEW YORK, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. stock markets moved higher Wednesday after research firm Markit Economics said U.S. manufacturing reached a five-month peak in November.
The Purchasing Manager's Index climbed to 52.4 in the month, on a scale in which numbers above 50 indicate businesses are expanding.
In a weekly report released a day early, the Labor Department said 41,000 fewer first-time unemployment claims were filed in the week that ended Saturday, with initial claims falling to 410,000, the numbers still skewed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
In mid-afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average added 46.26 points or 0.36 percent to 12,834.77. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index gained 9.76 points or 0.33 percent to 2,926.44. The S&P 500 added 2.31 points or 0.17 percent to 1,390.12.
The benchmark 10-year treasury fell 5/32 to yield 1.689 percent.
The euro rose to $1.2824 from Tuesday's $1.2818. Against the yen, the dollar rose to 82.44 yen from 81.69 yen.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index added 0.87 percent, 79.88 points, to 9,222.52.
In London, the FTSE 100 index was flat, gaining 0.07 percent, 3.93 points, to 5,752.03.
Manufacturing index shows growth
NEW YORK, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- A flash estimate of U.S. business activity in the manufacturing sector showed moderate improvement in November, a research firm said Wednesday.
Markit Economics said the manufacturing sector's Purchasing Managers Index for the month rose from 51 in October to 52.4, "signaling the strongest improvement in U.S. manufacturing business conditions for five months."
The PMI shows business expansion with numbers above 50.
In the component indexes that make up the diffuse PMI, new order growth and output rose to five-month highs, while the employment index posted its sharpest gain since July.
Markit called the improvement "modest."
"This is an encouraging sign that the slowdown in the goods-producing sector may have bottomed-out," said Markit Chief Economist Chris Williamson.
"Manufacturing therefore looks likely to make a positive contribution to economic growth in the fourth quarter after acting as a slight drag in the third quarter," he said.
For November, the index for new orders rose from 51.1 to 52.8. The production index, also known as output, rose from 51.4 to 52.9.
The employment index rose from 51.8 to 52.6.
A flash index is based on incomplete data, meaning the figures could be revised in the final report.
Leading indicators indicate growth
NEW YORK, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. index of leading economic indicators rose 0.2 percent in October, climbing for the second consecutive month, the Conference Board said Wednesday.
The Leading Economic Index, has climbed in five of the past eight months. In October, the index rose to 96 after rising 0.5 percent in September and falling 0.4 percent in August.
October's gain is in line with economists' expectations.
The index, which takes into account 10 economic components, is essentially a comparison with 2004, the year the Conference Board assigned the index a level of 100.
"Based on current trends, the economy will continue to expand modestly through the early months of 2013," Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein said.
"Hurricane Sandy, which is not yet fully reflected in the LEI, will likely adversely affect consumer spending and home building in the short-term," he added. "But it's too soon to gauge the net impact."
Goldstein also said budget negotiations in Washington "could alter the outlook."
First-time jobless claims drop by 41,000
WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. Labor Department Wednesday said first-time jobless benefits claims dropped by 41,000 in the week ending Saturday.
Initial benefits claims were expected to ease back significantly, as the previous week's bump of 78,000 was attributed to a backlog of claims due to Hurricane Sandy and the destruction that disrupted some jobs.
The hurricane pushed claims to a number unseen since the week of April 30, 2011.
For the current week, there were 410,000 first-time claims filed. The four-week rolling average for the week rose by 9,500 to 396,250.
First-time unemployment benefits claims under state programs totaled 397,671 for the week, an decrease of 80,872 from the previous week, the Labor Department said.
There were 440,157 initial benefits claims in the comparable week in 2011, the department's Employment and Training Administration said.