Initial claims for state unemployment insurance rose 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 474,000 in the week ended Dec. 5 from 457,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department said. Claims previously had declined for five straight weeks.
Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast claims climbing but only to 460,000. A Labor Department economist said claims had been bumped up by seasonal industries laying people off and by applications that had been held back during the Thanksgiving holiday week.
This was the first week in five weeks that the number had risen. That said, the number is now solidly below 500,000. Meanwhile, the Dow was up 50 points yesterday and it's up nearly 100 points in early trading. So far, the markets have no problems with the number.
In fact, the markets are shrugging off all sorts of bad news. Word came down William Butier, former head of the Bank of England, yesterday that Greece may default on debt obligations.
Bonds are slightly weaker this morning. The ten year U.S. Treasury is currently at 3.43%. That's up four basis points this morning. The yield spread between the two and ten year now sits at 2.69%. That's just six basis points below the all time record of 2.75%. Meanwhile, the three month t bill is still at .02%. It's maintained positive yield since falling into negative territory now more than two weeks ago.
Could Greece be the first member of the European Union to default? Former Bank of England policy maker Willem Buiter thinks so.
According to Bloomberg, Buiter, who will join Citigroup (C) next month as the chief economist, says “unless there are radical fiscal actions, lasting cuts in spending, and tax increases of at least 7% of GDP” Greece could be the first of the EU's 15 sovereign nations to default since Germany in 1948.
Crude oil is relatively unchanged today after continuing to fall sharply yesterday. It's now sitting at $70.86. It was near $80 a barrel late last week. Gold is up about $16 an ounce to $1132 but that's still well off highs that reached above $1200 in the last ten trading days.
Stocks were mixed in the Far East today. The Hang Seng in China was down .19%, the NIKKEI in Japan was down 1.41% and the broader Chinese index was up .45%. In Europe, there were across the board gains, shrugging of the news in Greece.
Finally, while the real estate market in most places is struggling in China they're taking steps to cool their own.
The Chinese government intensified its efforts to cool the country's overheated real estate industry Wednesday.
A policy was allowed to expire that had eliminated the turnover tax for those who sold homes they had owned for more than two years. From now on, the tax will instead be waived only for those selling homes they have owned at least five years.
The new guidelines were released following an executive meeting of the State Council chaired by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao Wednesday.
China grew about 7% in 2008 while the rest of the world contracted.