November and December jobless claims have decreased in the U.S., and a slew of other economic data released Thursday suggests the U.S. recovery is picking up. There's still work to do, but the U.S. can take some solace in the fact that its economy is "expanding moderately."
Take a look at some key data points, referenced from Reuters:
Unemployment -- fighting the good fight
New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a 3.5-year low last week, according to a government report. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped by 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000.
Although unemployment remains high, analysts say unemployment below 350,000 "signals labor market strength."
A separate report showed inflation remained in check in November, although wholesale prices rose moderately. Retail sales rose modestly in November, which is in "sharp contrast to Europe" where sovereign debt cripples spending.
Still work to do
According to Reuters, the number of Americans on emergency unemployment benefits increased 254,642 to 3.05 million in the week ended Nov. 26.
During that time, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits under all programs rose by 874,670 to a total of 7.45 million.
America is not in the clear yet. The greatest hurdle will come from the EU, which has yet to succeed or fail in its mission to solve its debt crisis. Its actions and outcome pose heavy risks for the U.S. economy.
In times of uncertainty, many investors turn to dividend stocks. Although past dividends are not a guarantee of future payment, investors looking for steady income may do well by turning to big companies with strong profitability.
To provide you with a starting-off point, we screened the S&P500 index for those paying dividends (yields above 1%) and beating their industry peers on the basis of trailing twelve month (TTM) gross, operating, and pre-tax margins.
Do you think these profitable dividend companies can offer the kind of stability income investors are looking for?
List sorted by difference in gross margin. (Click here to access free, interactive tools to analyze these ideas.)
1. Prudential Financial
2. International Game Technology
3. Pall Corp.
4. Patterson Companies
10. The McGraw-Hill Companies
Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the stocks mentioned above. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.
Kapitall's Rebecca Lipman does not own any of the shares mentioned above. Profitability data sourced from Fidelity. All other data sourced from Finviz.