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Blue-chip stocks are broadly higher today after government statistics showed that the unemployment situation is improving faster than expected. With roughly an hour left in the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) is up by 86 points, or 0.58%.
This morning, the Labor Department released its weekly estimate of jobless claims -- click here to see the official press release. According to the report, the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week fell to a near five-year low. The figure declined by 16,000, to a seasonally adjusted 339,000. Meanwhile, economists surveyed by MarketWatch.com had expected the figure to come in at 351,000.
According to an economist quoted by The Wall Street Journal, "The drop in claims reinforces our view that the sudden weakening in the data in March was more technical than fundamental, likely due in part at least to the swing in the weather to colder-than-usual from milder-than-usual earlier."
Earnings season is also exerting its influence on the market today, as a number of bellwether companies reported their financial results from the first three months of the year. The industrial conglomerate 3M (NYSE: MMM ) came in below expectations, with earnings per share of $1.61, versus the consensus estimate of $1.65. On top of this, the company lowered its forward guidance blaming a "stronger U.S. dollar and softer demand in some end markets." Share of 3M are down by 2.7% at the time of writing.
The oil giant ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) is also seeing its shares fall despite beating bottom-line estimates. For the quarter, Exxon earned $2.12 per share. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast earnings of $2.05 per share. Investors' discontent, in turn, is stemming from the company's falling revenue. In the same period last year, the company reported $124 billion in total revenue and other income. This year, it reported only $108 billion.
And finally, shares of UPS (NYSE: UPS ) are headed higher on the heels of its better-than-expected first-quarter performance. The shipping giant notched a 9% improvement in its operating profit on a year-over-year basis, attributing the gain to increased volume from e-commerce sales -- click here for the earnings release (link opens PDF). Unlike 3M, moreover, UPS reaffirmed its guidance for the remainder of the year. According to its chief financial officer, "Although macro uncertainty remains, we are reaffirming our 2013 guidance for full year adjusted diluted earnings per share to be within a range of $4.80 to $5.06."
Speaking of e-commerce, Amazon.com is scheduled to report its own results after the closing bell today. The consensus estimate on its earnings is for $0.28 per share, roughly in line with last year.
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