Markets eye jobless figures and await Intel report

Reaction to Intel's mid-quarter business update, employment reports and productivity figures will determine whether the Dow and Nasdaq continue to rally

The continuation of the rally on Wall Street into Thursday will largely depend on how investors react to economic reports and to the buzz surrounding a financial update by Intel after the bell.

Intel also caused a stir on Thursday ahead of its mid-quarter business update slated for 2.30pm PDT (10.30pm GMT). Analysts now expect the chipmaker could guide analysts towards the high end of previous forecasts.

"We expect Intel to set its revenue target for the fourth quarter toward the high end of its previous target range, between $6.6bn and $6.8bn," Merrill Lynch analyst Joseph Osha said in a research note Thursday.

First Call's average estimate is for earnings of 10 cents a share on $6.6bn in revenue. Osha continues to rate the stock an "accumulate."

The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 10.38 to 10,103.91 on opening, and the Nasdaq slipped 2.44 to 2,044.40. Less than an hour into the regular session, both indices flip-flopped between positive and negative territories.

On Wednesday, optimism about technology stocks and two better-than-expected economic reports drove the Dow and Nasdaq beyond the 10,000 and 2,000 marks respectively.

Reports on Thursday about jobless claims, productivity and factory orders will help investors decide whether those gains were merited. Expectations that chip giant Intel will announce some upbeat forecasts after the market closes may help the tech sector hold its gains.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims fell by 18,000 to a seasonally adjusted 475,000 for the week ended December 1. Even though the number of Americans lining up for first-time jobless benefits declined, the four-week moving average, considered a more accurate gauge, rose to 460,750 from 455,000, indicating that the labor market is still weak.

The number of workers remaining on jobless benefits also declined, falling by 349,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.6 million for the week ended November 24.

A revised reading on third-quarter productivity from the Labor Department showed worker output of goods and services per hour, outside of the farming sector, rose at a 1.5 percent annual rate in July, August and September, revised down from the 2.7 percent growth initially estimated for the quarter. That is weaker than the rate of 2.1 percent economists had expected.

The Commerce Department is expected to report October factory orders Thursday.

Intel caused a stir on Thursday ahead of its mid-quarter business update slated for 2.30pm PDT (10.30pm GMT). Analysts now expect the chipmaker could guide analysts towards the high end of previous forecasts.

"We expect Intel to set its revenue target for the fourth quarter toward the high end of its previous target range, between $6.6bn and $6.8bn," Merrill Lynch analyst Joseph Osha said in a research note Thursday.

First Call's average estimate is for earnings of 10 cents a share on $6.6bn in revenue. Osha continues to rate the stock an "accumulate".

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