Dow Drops Over 150 as Jobless Claims Surge

Stocks fell sharply Thursday after the government said weekly jobless claims ramped up more than expected last week.

The Dow was down more than 150 points, or over 1.5 percent, to around 10,200. All 30 components were lower, led by Coca-Cola , JPMorgan and Caterpillar .

Initial jobless claims rose by 22,000, much more than expected. Though the government said some of the increase could have been due to a backlog of claims processing due to inclement East Coast weather.

Orders for durable goods, big-ticket items such as cars and refrigerators, fell 0.6 percent in January; economists had been expecting a 1-percent increase. And mortgage rates ticked higher this week: The average on the 30-year fixed rose to 5.05 percent from 4.93 percent last week.

There was more buzz about Greece today: Ratings agencies indicated they may downgrade Greece's debt, raising concerns about potential defaults and the cost of a bailout.

Meanwhile, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank will investigate traders betting against Greece with credit-default swaps. A New York Times article this morning pointed out that this echoed the kind of trades that nearly brought down AIG.

Coca-Cola Enterprises was the biggest gainer on the S&P 500, surging over 30 percent, following news that the bottler will be purchased by Coca-Cola. The news wasn't so good for Coca-Cola, which was the biggest percentage decliner on the Dow.

Palm shares tumbled more than 20 percent after the gadget maker slashed its revenue forecast.

Most retailers were lower, as the cold weather has crimped demand for spring merchandise. But Kohl's rose more than 2 percent after the department-store operator beat earnings expecations.

The major averages appear virtually certain to chalk up gains for the month of February, but a third week of gains for the Dow and the S&P 500 and a fourth week of gains for the Nasdaq is still in doubt.

Still to come: The EIA will also be out with the weekly natural gas inventory report at 10:30 am.

The Treasury concludes $118 billion in note auctions by selling $32 billion in 7-year notes, with results available shortly after 1 pm.

St. Louis Fed president James Bullard is speaking in Texas at 12:15 pm.

Still to Come:

THURSDAY: Bernanke Senate testimony; Fed's Bullard speaks; Apple shareholder meeting; Buffett lunch; health-care summit; seven-year auction; financial-industry compensation hearing; Earnings from Gap after the bell
FRIDAY: 2nd read on Q4 GDP; consumer sentiment; existing-home sales; Fed's Kocherlakota speaks; Madoff hearing; Earnings from Berkshire Hathaway

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