The equities in the United States rallied driven by a positive report from the Department of Labor indicating that the number of individuals that applied for unemployment benefits was less than expected.

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Data from the agency showed that the initial claims for unemployment benefits declined by 26,000 to 323,000 for the week ended March 1. The Labor Department said the four-week moving average was 336,500. The seasonally insured unemployment rate was 2.2% for the week ending February 22.

The agency is scheduled to release its jobs report for the month of February tomorrow.

Yesterday, the Federal Reserve Beige Book business survey showed an economic improvement in most regions in the United States even if extreme winter weather conditions prevented hiring.

In a telephone interview with Bloomberg, Rob Stein, CEO of Astor Investment Management commented, “We’ve been adding jobs, GDP growth is positive, earnings are showing a positive trend, inflation is relatively low and while a lot of the stuff could be much, much better, the trend is still productive.” He added, “We need to get away from the latest noise and headlines and look at the fundamental trends in place.”

U.S. Markets

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)- 16,421.89 (+0.38%)
  • S&P 500- 1,877.03 (+0.17%)
  • NASDAQ- 4,352.13 (-0.13%)
  • Russell 2000- 1,204.28 (-0.14%)

European Markets

  • EURO STOXX 50 Price EUR- 3,144.53 (+0.27%)
  • FTSE 100 Index- 6,788.49 (+0.19%)
  • Deutsche Borse AG German Stock Index DAX- 9,542.87 (+0.01%)

Asia Pacific Markets

  • Nikkei 225- 15,134.75 (+1.59%)
  • Hong Kong Hang Seng Index- 22,702.97 (+0.55%)
  • Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 Index- 2,173.63 (+0.45%)

Stocks in Focus

The stock price of Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST) declined almost 3% to $113.12 per share after the company reported $1.05 earnings per share, a 15% decline from its $1.24 net income in the same period a year ago. Wall Street analysts estimated that it will be able to report $1.17 earnings per share. Its $25.76 billion revenue also missed the $26.67 billion consensus estimate.

Staples, Inc. (NASDAQ:SPLS) fell more than 15% to $11.35 per share after the company announced its decision to close 225 stores in North America as part of its initiative to reduce costs as much as $500 million by the end of 2015. The company also projected a sales decline in the first quarter of this year.

The shares of Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE:YUM) gained more than 3% to $77.29 per share after an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co upgraded its rating for the stock from Neutral to Outperform and raised the price target from $79 to $87 per share.