There's only one word to describe U.S. initial jobless claims these days: stubborn. After showing some progress earlier in the year, claims rose above the 400,000-threshold in April and have stayed there ever since. On Thursday, more of the same: The Labor Department reported that claims for the period ended last week fell by a mere 1,000 from the previous week, to 428,000. Economists had been hoping for a slightly bigger drop, to 420,000.
However, markets seem to be getting used to serial disappointment on the employment front. With less than an hour before stock markets open, futures for the Dow Jones industrial average were up 32 points or 0.3 per cent, putting the index on track to post its fourth consecutive gain.
At least the latest snapshot of economic growth in Canada managed to top gloomy expectations. While economists had been forecasting that gross domestic product would contract 0.1 per cent in April over March, growth was actually flat, according to Statistics Canada.
"Canadian GDP growth in the second quarter will be lacklustre," said Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns, in a note. "However, the bigger issue now is whether the economy can regain its mojo in the second half of the year, and there are still grounds for optimism on that score."
The better-than-expected reading on economic growth follows Wednesday's bigger-than-expected pop in inflation. The inflation reading had some observers pencilling in rate hikes by the Bank of Canada before the end of the year -- and as early as September -- and the surging Canadian dollar seemed to reflect this view.