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Nov. 15, 2012 at 2:21 PM
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Markets anemic on poor jobless figures

NEW YORK, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. stock markets were mixed Thursday after the Labor Department said first-time unemployment claims soared in response to Hurricane Sandy.

Initial benefit claims rose by 78,000 to 439,000, partly due to a backlog of claims that could not be filed the week the hurricane hit and partly because some work has been suspended in the aftermath of the storm.

In early afternoon trading Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 10.10 points, or 0.08 percent, to 12,560.85.

The Nasdaq was off 4.22 points, or 0.15 percent, to 2,842.59.

The Standard and Poor's 500 dropped 0.51 points, or 0.04 percent, to 1,356.

The benchmark 10-year treasury was yielding 1.583 percent.

The euro rose to $1.2782 from Wednesday's $1.2735. Against the yen, the dollar rose to 81.14 from 80.25 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index gained 1.9 percent, 164.99 points, to 8,829.72

In London, the FTSE 100 index lost 0.77 percent, 44.26, to 6,577.75.

Foreclosures rose slightly in October

IRVINE, Calif., Nov. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. online real estate firm RealtyTrac said Thursday that foreclosures rose September to October, but fell compared with October 2011.

RealtyTrac said there were 186,455 default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions in the month, which is 3 percent more than September, but 19 percent lower than October 2011.

One out of every 706 U.S. homes were in some stage of foreclosure in the month.

RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist said foreclosure activity was skewed by Hurricane Sandy.

"Unfortunately, the three states dealing with the biggest rebound in deferred foreclosure activity -- New Jersey, New York and Connecticut -- also had to deal with the devastation to homes inflicted by Superstorm Sandy," he said.

The massive hurricane plowed through three states with the larges annual increases in foreclosure activity, including New Jersey with activity up 140 percent, New York with activity up 123 percent and Connecticut with activity up 41 percent, RealtyTrac said.

"The foreclosure moratoriums being put into effect as a result of the storm will likely extend the already lengthy time to foreclose in these states, further prolonging a fundamentally sound housing recovery," Blomquist said.

Consumer prices rise marginally

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- The Consumer Price Index rose 0.1 percent in October on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Department of Commerce said Thursday.

On a 12-month basis prices rose 2.2 percent, which is slightly higher than the 2 percent target the Federal Reserve has set as a red flag indicating prices are rising too fast.

Numerically, food and fuel prices canceled each other out in the month with food prices up 0.2 percent in October and the energy price index down 0.2 percent.

The gasoline price index, which had risen 16.6 percent from July to September settled back sharply, falling 0.6 percent in October.

Natural gas prices for U.S. households also fell, dropping 0.2 percent. In contrast, the price index for electricity rose 0.5 percent in the month, the largest monthly gain in over a year.

Fuel oil prices rose 1.1 percent in the month.

Core prices, which eliminate food and fuel items and which are closely watched by the central bank, rose 0.2 percent, the department said.

Jobless benefit claims skyrocket in week

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- The U.S. Labor Department Thursday said first-time jobless benefits claims rose by 78,000 in the week ending Saturday.

Initial claims jumped out of a relatively comfortable 355,000 claims -- the third lowest week since the recession ended in June 2009 -- to 439,000 with the four-week rolling average up 11,750 to 383,750.

The weekly figure has been volatile of late -- rising by 46,000 one week in mid-October, for example, but a one-week jump of 78,000 is a clear setback. First time claims have not been this high since the week of April 30, 2011.

The jump is clearly part of the handiwork of Hurricane Sandy, which ripped through the East Coast causing by some estimations as much as $50 billion in damage.

The Hurricane had a one-two punch on the jobless claims statistics. First, it caused some filing to be delayed by a week. Second, it caused some businesses to close down, triggering a push for unemployment benefits.

The advance number of unadjusted actual first-time jobless benefits claims under state programs totaled 466,348 for the week, an increase of 104,548 from the previous week, the Labor Department said.

There were 363,016 initial benefits claims in the comparable week in 2011, the department's Employment and Training Administration said.

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