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Positive news on COVID vaccines weighs against -2-

China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, (link) has had 100,832 confirmed cases and 4,834 deaths, according to its official numbers.

What's the economy saying?

U.S. manufacturers in January booked the biggest increase in orders in six months, pointing to an economy that is gaining steam again after a letdown at the end of 2020, MarketWatch's Jeffry Bartash reported (link).

Orders for durable goods -- products meant to last at least three years -- rose 3.4% in January, the government said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal had forecast a 1% advance.

Read: Inflation worries are back. Should you worry? (link)

Separately, new applications for U.S. unemployment benefits fell sharply in late February to a three-month low, but the still-high number of layoffs suggests the economy is rebounding slowly from last winter's record coronavirus onslaught.

Initial jobless claims filed traditionally through the states sank by 111,000 to 730,000 in the week ended Feb. 20, the government said Thursday (link).

The steep decline was much bigger than expected, but the claims data has been very erratic and unreliable lately owing to processing snafus, bad weather and other problems. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal had forecast new claims would total a seasonally adjusted 845,000.

Another 451,402 applications for benefits were filed through a temporary federal-relief program.

Adding up new state and federal claims, the government received 1.16 million applications last week for unemployment benefits, based on actual or unadjusted figures.

Finally, The U.S. economy expanded at an annual 4.1% pace in the fourth quarter instead of 4%, according to updated data released by the Commerce Department Thursday, as MarketWatch's Greg Robb reported (link).

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast that fourth-quarter gross domestic product would be raised to a 4.2% annual growth rate.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said this week that strong growth later this year is the outlook that he sees as the most likely for the economy. He said a 6% growth rate in 2021 couldn't be ruled out. Today's slight fourth-quarter GDP increase didn't alter the government's estimate that the economy shrank at a 3.5% rate in 2020 as the pandemic led to an unprecedented shutdown of activity.

Economists polled by the Journal expect 2.8% growth in the first three months of the year, followed by a 6% rate in the second quarter.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 moved lower.

-Ciara Linnane; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

02-25-21 1126ET

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