Here’s what’s important in the business world this morning:
Unemployment: The number of people seeking first-time unemployment benefits rose by 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 372,000. The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 3,750 to 368,000.
Applications have risen for two straight weeks. Some economists said that indicates that hiring in August may slow from July's “gain” of 163,000 jobs.
Weak hiring may prompt the Federal Reserve to take more action to stimulate the economy. At the Fed's last meeting, policymakers signaled that they were moving closer to launching another round of bond-buying, according to minutes released Wednesday. The goal of more bond purchases would be to lower longer-term interest rates to encourage more borrowing and spending.
Germany: Giving Greece more time to carry out reforms and spending cuts won't resolve the debt-laden country's problems, Germany's finance minister said Thursday, a day before the Greek prime minister meets Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"You cannot just say after half a year, all of that is not enough, because then you will never win the confidence of financial markets," Schaeuble said on Germany's SWR radio. "So more time is not a solution for the problems. The question is how we win back confidence."
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is seeking to earn his nation more time to complete reforms and hold on to bailout loans - without which Greece would be forced into a chaotic default on its debts and could be forced out of the 17-country eurozone.
Homes Sales: Sales of new homes in the U.S. rose 3.6 percent in July to match a two-year high reached in May. The Commerce Department says new-home sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 372,000. That's the same as in May, which was the highest since April 2010.
In the past 12 months, sales have jumped 25 percent. Still, the increase is from a historically low level. New-home sales are well below the annual pace of 700,000 that economists consider healthy.
One trend holding back sales is that there aren't many newly built homes available. New homes for sale dipped last month to 142,000, the lowest on records dating back to 1963.
Stocks: U.S. stocks opened lower Thursday after a disappointing report about the number of people seeking jobless benefits.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 50 points to 13,121. The Standard & Poor's 500, which earlier this week hit its highest point in four years during a trading day, was down five to 1,409. The Nasdaq composite index fell 12 to 3,062.
The Labor Department said the four-week average for people seeking unemployment assistance rose slightly last week, a reminder that any recovery in the jobs market remains modest and uneven.
Major indexes in Germany, France, Greece and Spain were also down. Greece is trying to implement the reforms that Germany is demanding so it can keep its rescue loans, but the process has been slow.
In early U.S. trading, materials stocks and utilities fell the most, while health care stocks were down only slightly.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.