Early gains on the heels of positive jobs data had the markets cheering the news for most of the day, but the gains disappeared in afternoon trading, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) closed down 19 points Thursday, to finish at 13,326.
Initially, investors were impressed with numbers released by the U.S. Department of Labor reporting a lower-than-expected number of people filing for unemployment benefits. Initial claims for the week of October 6 were 339,000, a full 30,000 fewer than the prior week.
Today was the fourth consecutive losing day for the Dow, as 18 of its 30 components closed in the red.
Leading the laggards were AT&T (NYSE: T ) and Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS ) , which lost 1.8% and 1.7%, respectively. Disney was dragged down by a lawsuit from Stan Lee Media, which claimed that Disney doesn't own the rights to mainstream Marvel characters like Spider-Man, the X-Men, and other superheroes on the Avengers team. Disney agreed to purchase Marvel in 2009, and has gone on to bake billions off its characters.
Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) joined AT&T as the other major telecom player to fall today. The two fell as their mutual competitor Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) was announced to be the target of a buyout by Japanese carrier Softbank. The acquisition, if completed, would lend Sprint some much-needed financial strength that will help it remain relevant in the cutthroat communications industry.
Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) continued its stellar year, climbing over 1.4% to lead the Dow, as the EU noted it may delay restrictive capital rules on European banks for as much as a year. Bank of America stock is up almost 70% in 2012.
Although today saw the best jobless claims numbers in four years, the broader market continues to be jittery about the future of the country, with elections less than a month away. The sole Vice Presidential debate will be held tonight at 9 p.m. EDT, as markets look for indications about what way the country is headed.