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April 19, 2012 at 1:19 PM
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Early market gains evaporate

NEW YORK, April 19 (UPI) -- Early markets gains faded in New York Thursday, as investors contemplated a slew of corporate and government reports.

First-time claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 2,000 in the week to 386,000, the department said.

The National Association of Realtors said existing home sales slowed in March. The Federal Reserve's Philadelphia district said gains in mid-Atlantic manufacturing slowed in April.

Quarterly reports showed profits down at Bank of America but ahead of expectations. Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia said it lost $1.2 billion in the quarter, due to slower sales. New York Times Co. said its net income rose to $42.1 million for the first quarter, largely due to sales of various assets and rising circulation revenue.

In early afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 51.85 points or 0.4 percent to 12,980.90. The tech-dominated Nasdaq composite index shed 11.46 points or 0.38 percent to 3,019.99. The Standard and Poor's 500 index gave up 5.20 points or 0.38 percent to 1,379.94.

The 10-year treasury note was up 5/32 to yield 1.961 percent.

The euro fell to $1.3122 from Wednesday's $1.3123. Against the yen, the dollar rose to 81.514 yen from Wednesday's 81.26 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index lost 0.82 percent, 78.88, to 9,588.38.

In London, the FTSE 100 index dropped 0.01 percent, 0.74, to 5,744.55.

Canadian February jobless claims dip

OTTAWA, April 19 (UPI) -- The number of recipients of federal Canadian jobless benefits declined by 1.2 percent to 552,800 in February, Statistics Canada reported Thursday.

That represents 6,700 fewer beneficiaries of Employment Insurance on a monthly basis as the unemployment rate in February stood at 7.4 percent, the agency said.

"The number of beneficiaries fell in six provinces, with the largest percentage declines occurring in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec," StatsCan said. "The largest percentage decline was observed in Quebec, where claims fell 6.3 percent."

The agency said there was little change in the other four provinces.

Mid-Atlantic manufacturing growth slows

PHILADELPHIA, April 19 (UPI) -- The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank said key mid-Atlantic manufacturing indexes showed gains slowing down in April.

The monthly business survey, taken midway through the month, found the diffusion index of manufacturing activity remained positive, but dropped from 12.5 to 8.5.

Although growth slowed, the index has shown significant improvement since August, when the diffusion index stood at minus 30.7.

In April, the index for new orders and shipments each fell 1 point and remain "at relatively low readings," the Fed said.

The index for unfilled orders, concurrently, rose dramatically, climbing 14 points to move into positive territory.

This suggests "a backlog of unfilled orders," the report said.

In the report, numbers below zero indicate a contraction, while numbers above zero indicate growth.

In April, 27 percent of the firms responding to the survey indicated employment at their company was increasing, while 9 percent indicated employment was declining. The average number of work hours in the month was unchanged with 75 percent of firms reporting no change in their work week.

Leading indicators up for six months

NEW YORK, April 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. index of leading economic indicators rose for the sixth consecutive month in March, the Conference Board said Thursday.

The Leading Economic Index was up 0.3 percent to 95.7, following an increase of 0.7 percent in February and a 0.2 percent increase in January.

Economists had predicted a 0.2 gain, expecting economic growth may have slowed given the drop off in job gains in March.

The Leading Economic Index, which takes into account 10 economic components, is essentially a comparison with 2004, the year the Conference Board assigned a level of 100.

The March index rose, "despite relatively weak data on jobs, home building and output in the past month or two, the indicators signal continued economic momentum," said Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein.

"We expect a gradual improvement in growth past the summer months," he said.

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