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Morning Market Roundup: Unemployment Numbers, Facebook's Investigations, EU Growth


Here’s what’s important in the business world this morning:

Unemployment: The number of people seeking unemployment aid changed little last week. The Labor Department says weekly unemployment benefit applications dipped by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 370,000.

Applications have leveled off this month after spiking in April to a five-month high of 392,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, has also declined - it was 370,000 last week.

Economists forecast employers have added 160,000 jobs this month. That's above April's gains but below the pace set this winter. The government will report next Friday on May job growth.

"Officially," the unemployment rate has fallen from 9.1 percent in August to 8.1 percent last month.

Part of the reason for the drop is that employers have added a million jobs over the past five months. But it has also declined because some people gave up looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively looking for a job.

Yahoo!: Joining the battle to redefine Internet search, Yahoo is taking aim with a new browser enhancement it calls "Axis."

It alters browsers made by other companies to display search results in a more convenient and visual format.

The troubled Internet company Yahoo Inc. released Axis in Apple's app store late Wednesday. That version will work only on Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The software also can be installed as a plug-in on most major browsers used on desktop computers and laptops. Apps for other mobile devices are in the works.

This image provided by Yahoo shows the company's "Axis" app for iPad.

A device running Axis can display search results in a panorama of visual thumbnails that can be scrolled through above a Web page. It's a departure from search engines' traditional presentation of a list of staid Web links that require more navigation and guesswork.

Facebook: Facebook's initial public offering is the subject of two congressional inquiries and mounting lawsuits as the social network enters its fifth day of public trading.

The shares regained some ground Wednesday, rising $1, or 3.2 percent, to close at $32. They were up another 50 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $32.50 in early premarket trading Thursday. But they are still more than 14 percent below their $38 per share IPO price last week.

Several shareholders who bought stock in the IPO have filed lawsuits against Facebook, its executives and Morgan Stanley, the IPO's lead underwriter. At question is whether analysts at the big underwriter investment banks cut their second-quarter and full-year forecasts for Facebook just before the IPO, and told only a handful of clients about it.

EU: European Union leaders concluded their latest summit early Thursday with few concrete steps to fix the continent's festering financial crisis even as the potential for a messy Greek exit from the euro appears to be rising. Some leaders stressed the importance of planning for just such an event but offered no measures that might help Greece avoid it.

Also left unresolved was what Europe should do to spark economic growth and restore the confidence of investors, who have driven some countries' borrowing costs to unsustainable levels. The fiscal austerity agenda that Germany has promoted as the solution to Europe's problem of too much government debt has been met with rising skepticism in other euro countries.

The leaders of the 27 EU countries agreed to give institutions such as the European Investment Bank the task of drawing up proposals for growth in time for another summit in June. But there was discord over more aggressive actions promoted by some leaders heading into the summit, such as issuing bonds jointly as a way of reducing borrowing costs for heavily indebted nations among the 17 countries that use the euro.

Greek Prime Minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos addresses the media after an EU summit at the EU Council in Brussels, Wednesday, May 23, 2012.

The perception that European leaders lack the political will to tackle the continent's financial and economic problems has left markets on edge for weeks. Recession is spreading. Banks are under pressure. The biggest fear is that if Greece cannot be saved, other larger economies - like Spain or Portugal - might face the same fate.

Markets: European stock markets edged up on Thursday, recovering from heavy losses the day before, as investors had expected the continent's leaders to fail to reach a breakthrough in their crisis resolution efforts.

Stocks took a pummeling the previous session as expectations dissipated that the European Union leaders in Brussels would agree any meaningful measures to boost economic growth or stabilize financial markets.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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