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After dipping more than 100 points at midday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) came roaring back this afternoon, finishing up 80 points to 15,040, or 0.5%, nearly 200 points above its low point for the day. There was no major news driving stocks higher this afternoon, though optimism about tomorrow's jobs report could have been one reason. The European Central Bank also kept in place its low interest rates, and left all other stimulative policies in place in a meeting today. Major European indexes, which closed before the jump in U.S. stocks, finished down 1% or more. The dollar also dropped significantly, falling 3% vs. the yen, as investors fear that a weak jobs report could lead to more stimulus.
The initial unemployment claims report was slightly better than expected, as 346,000 Americans filed for new unemployment benefits last week, 2,000 less than economists had predicted. Continuing unemployment claims were also 1% lower than expected, at 2.952 million. In tomorrow's jobs report, analysts are expecting an overall increase of 159,000 jobs, and 175,000 in the private sector. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 7.5%. Also today, several retailers reported same-store sales for May, indicating an overall positive trend for the sector and the economy.
Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) led all Dow stocks today, gaining 3.5%, despite word from The Guardian that the National Security Agency had ordered the company to turn over private information about calls in the latest Washington scandal du jour. Still, Verizon had no choice in the matter, regardless of what critics of the program may say. It seems unlikely that that would have led to the stock's gain, but shares were down more than 10% in the last three weeks, so the telecom may just be getting a strong bump on a bullish day.
Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) was another strong performer, rising 2.9%, after Kevin Hoffman, the company's president of online sales, said at a conference today that there's opportunity for larger projects such as floor and kitchen installations in the e-commerce market. The retailer is testing programs such as video conferencing with customers, and sending them 3D models.