Stock markets have traded slightly lower today as a jump in initial jobless claims made investors evaluate whether this great January run can continue. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is down 0.25% as of 3:15 p.m. EST, and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) is has fallen 0.17%.
The Department of Labor said that initial jobless claims jumped to 368,000 last week from 330,000 a week earlier. We hit a five-year low in jobless claims earlier this month, but we may not be seeing the boom in employment that the data suggested. These numbers are adjusted for seasonality, so we need to take each weekly result with a grain of salt and worry about the long-term trends. The good news is that long-term unemployment claims are down, which is slowly having a positive impact on employment.
Interestingly, the Department of Commerce said personal income rose 2.6% in December, driven by higher dividend payments. Dividend payments jumped 34.3% because companies rushed to pay investors before taxes jumped on the first of the year.
In company-specific news, investors aren't exactly cheering today's launch of Intel's (NASDAQ:INTC) new mobile phone: The stock is down 1.4%. The company partnered with Acer to build the new Acer Liquid C1, which launches in Thailand today for $335. For years, Intel has been trying to make inroads in the mobile market with little success, and it has gone to great lengths to design and make phones to prove its capabilities.
The other half of the Wintel tandem, software maker Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), has fallen 1.4%. Intel and Microsoft often trade together because their fortunes are tied in many markets, but the company is also feeling pressure from a new patent lawsuit. Vringo's subsidiary I/P Engine has sued Microsoft over search technology used in Bing. I/P Engine won a small case against Google and AOL last year and is going after Microsoft with the same patents in hand.
Fool contributor Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of Microsoft and Intel. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.
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