Stocks drop as unemployment claims spike

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Stock markets closed slightly down Thursday after Labor Department data showed a huge spike in initial unemployment claims, and congressional talks on a COVID-19 relief package hit a rough patch.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 70 points, or 0.2 percent, closing just fractions of a point below the 30,000 milestone it reached last month for the first time. The S&P 500 fell 4.7 points, or 0.1 percent.

Jobless claims for the first week of December shot up to 853,000 in seasonally adjusted claims, a nearly 20 percent jump from the previous week and the highest reading since September.

The increase comes as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to set new records, leading states and cities to reimpose tough social distancing and lockdown measures that affect businesses. Seven-day average daily case counts are north of 200,000, and the daily death toll surpassed 3,000.

At the same time, hope that Congress would strike a deal on a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package has begun to fade, as Republicans and Democrats spar over liability protections, unemployment insurance and aid to state and local governments. 

Updated at 4:05 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Unemployment Wall Street
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