US stocks dip over job benefit rise

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 23.54 points to close at 11,731.90

US stocks dipped after a report found that more people applied for unemployment benefits last week.

The Labour Department said first-time applications for unemployment benefits rose by 35,000 from the week before to 445,000. It was the highest level since October and above what economists had predicted.

The Dow fell 23.54 points, or 0.2%, to 11,731.90. The Standard and Poor’s 500 lost 2.20, or 0.2%, to 1,283.76. The Nasdaq composite lost 2.04, or 0.1%, to 2,735.29.

Merck fell 6.6% to 34.69 dollars after announcing that clinical trials of its cardiovascular drug vorapaxar would be discontinued for some patients. It was the biggest faller among the 30 stocks which make up the Dow Jones industrial average. Home Depot, which gained 1.3%, led the index.

Losses were spread across the market. Seven of the 10 company groups that make up the S&P 500 fell. Materials companies had the largest move, falling 0.8%.

Whole Foods Market jumped 4.6% to 52.31 dollars after an analyst said the company’s shares would continue to rise because its customers are willing to pay higher costs for food. The company is up nearly 80% over the last year.

The Labour Department also reported that wholesale prices in December rose by the largest amount in nearly a year, as a result of higher energy and food costs. Most other prices rose only slightly, suggesting inflation is not spreading through the economy.

A decline in the dollar helped limit stock losses. The dollar lost 1.1% against an index of six currencies after successful bond auctions by Spain and Italy pushed the euro higher. The dollar’s slide helps US companies that rely on exports by making their prices more competitive overseas.

Bond prices rose, pushing their yields lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.31% from 3.35% late yesterday. That yield is used to set interest rates on many kinds of loans, including mortgages.

Four shares rose for every three that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume came to 931 million shares.

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