(MENAFN - ProactiveInvestors - Australia) U.S. markets were drifted overnight after first-time jobless claims rose more than expected last week and personal income rose in January, but January was still on track for its best performance in years.
By the close the Dow Jones had eased 50 points to 13,861, while the NASDAQ was flat at 3142. Highlighting the strong equity markets in 2013, the Dow added 5.8% in January, with the NASDAQ climbing 4.1% over the same period.
Thursday, data showed that first-time jobless claims rose more than expected last week, to a seasonally adjusted 368,000, up from the five-year low of 330,000 in the previous week. Analysts expected claims to rise to 355,000.
The employment cost index measuring the price of U.S. labor also rose 0.5% in the fourth quarter on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Labor Department said today, matching Wall Street forecasts.
Data on consumer spending and personal income for December was also just released, with consumer spending rising 0.2%, matching Street expectations, while personal income rose by 2.6% compared to estimates for a 0.9% rise.
Economists said the huge gain for December personal income was due to special dividends that were paid by many companies late in the quarter in anticipation of changes in individual income tax rates, as well as some acceleration in wages and salaries.
Finally, the Chicago purchasing-managers index on factory activity rose in January to 55.6 - well above consensus expectations for 50.5. This report is very positive, economists said, but the big gains could be a one-time surge following depressed activity going into the year-end fiscal cliff.
On the corporate front, shares of social networking group Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) trimmed losses Thursday as despite beating Wall Street views late in the previous session with its quarterly results, it still disappointed some investors with mobile ad revenue growth.
Meanwhile, JDS Uniphase Corp. (NASDAQ:JDSU) climbed more than 17% after it turned to a profit in its latest quarter to beat expectations late in the prior session, while Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) gained on its forecast of higher-than-expected second-quarter sales and profit.
Investors saw another busy day of earnings Thursday.
Mastercard (NYSE:MA) moved higher following its report that its fourth quarter profit rose 18% to 605 million or 4.86 per share, topping analyst views for earnings of 4.80 a share. Revenue rose 10% to 1.9 billion, as processed transactions increased 20% to 9.2 billion.
Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. (NASDAQ:NDAQ) posted an increase in fourth-quarter net earnings, with adjusted profit at 64 cents a share. Analysts expected the New York-based stock exchange operator to earn 61 cents a share. Revenue was basically steady at 419 million.
Elsewhere, Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW) posted a wider fourth quarter net loss as quarterly sales dropped to 13.92 billion from almost 14.1 billion a year ago. On an adjusted basis, it would have earned a profit of 33 cents a share, up from 25 cents a year earlier, but still under Street estimates of 34 cents.
In the consumer sector, Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL) shares were down after it posted an adjusted profit of 1.41 per share for its fourth quarter, topping analyst expectations by one penny. Sales rose 2.5% to 4.29 billion as gross margin edged up. The company said that looking ahead, it sees adjusted profit increasing at a double digit rate this year.
Hershey (NYSE:HSY) posted adjusted earnings of 74 cents a share for its latest quarter, as net income grew from the prior year period, but results still fell short of estimates. Analysts had been looking for a profit of 76 cents a share.
The chocolate company also raised its growth target for adjusted earnings in 2013 to a range of 10% to 12%, implying a profit of 3.56 to 3.63 a share, and affirmed that sales are expected to grow at 5% to 7% from 2012. Shares rose 1.6% today.
Whirlpool (NYSE:WHR) reported a decline in fourth quarter profit, but adjusted profit of 2.29 a share topped estimates for 2.22 a share, as the company benefited from favourable product price and mix, and cost reduction efforts. Sales fell, however, to 4.79 billion from 4.91 billion a year earlier, in part due to the impact from currency translations.
For 2013, Whirlpool forecast adjusted profit in a range of 9.25 to 9.75 a share, with shares of the company rising more than 6%.
Shares of UPS (NYSE:UPS) declined over 2% after the shipping giant's fourth-quarter earnings and full year guidance came in below analyst forecasts.
Elsewhere in corporate news, it seemed as though Research In Motion (TSE:RIM) (NASDAQ:RIMM) just couldn't catch a break, as its shares continued their downward spiral Thursday " a day after it finally launched its long-awaited BB10 smartphone and operating platform.
Despite a launch of a smartphone that has received very good reviews thus far, the company has been plagued by profit-taking, and analyst concern over the products' availability to U.S. customers. Shares were down more than 5.7% in the U.S.
U.S. crude-oil futures fell Thursday on profit-taking. Crude oil for March delivery fell 45 cents, or 0.5%, to 97.49 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold for April delivery dropped 19.60, or 1.2%, to settle at 1,662 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
European markets finished lower today. The FTSE 100 was down 0.73% while France's CAC 40 was off 0.87% and Germany's DAX was lower by 0.45%.