Investing.com — U.S. stock markets fell sharply at the opening on Thursday, after an unexpected rise in weekly jobless claims sparked fears that trades anticipating an economic recovery in the course of the year may have gone too far, too fast.
Earlier, the Labor Department had said initial jobless claims rose to 861,000 last week, instead of falling to 765,000 as expected. The news blunted the optimism that had been prompted by a strong retail sales report for January, which had been released on Wednesday. The figures suggested that the sharp rise in consumer spending enabled by stimulus checks was masking a much more severe weakness in the labor market, a point made repeatedly by Federal Reserve officials in recent weeks.
Early trade was also overshadowed by a weaker-than-expected report from Walmart (NYSE:WMT). The big-box retailer’s stock fell 6.1% after the company said sales will hardly grow in the next 12 months, after posting a solid 8% rise in the 12 months through January.