Stocks mixed after unemployment claims edge up

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NEW YORK (AP) ? Stock futures were mixed Thursday after the government reported an increase in the number of first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week.

The figure was inflated by striking employees at Verizon. That strike ended earlier this week. Excluding Verizon’s labor standoff, layoffs probably fell and that could ease anxiety over the potential of another recession.

The Labor Department said applications for benefits rose to 417,000 last week, the highest level in five weeks.

In Thursday’s premarket trading, Apple Inc. fell more than 2 percent after co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs resigned late Wednesday. Analysts have already reminded clients that Jobs’ departure was expected because of his health problems. Richard Gardner at Citigroup recommended investors buy the stock on any dip.

The price of gold continues to fall, sinking $30, or 1.7 percent, to $1,728 an ounce. The price plunged $104 Wednesday.

Gold’s 5.6 percent drop on Wednesday was the steepest in more than three years. Pressure to sell is coming from new rules in China and in the U.S. requiring traders to set aside more collateral when borrowing money to buy gold.

The price of gold hit a nominal record of $1,891.90 an ounce on Monday.

Economists and investors are waiting for a speech on Friday by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke at a symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Some hope Bernanke will announce more government support for the economy.

At last year’s Jackson Hole conference, Bernanke laid out an argument for the central bank to buy Treasury bonds with the aim of lowering interest rates to encourage spending. That led to the Fed’s $600 billion bond-buying effort, which was launched in November and widely credited with lifting the stock market in the following months.

Roughly an hour before the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures are up 12 points at 11,280. S&P 500 index futures are up 1 point at 1,173. Nasdaq 100 futures are down 8 points at 2,130.

Indexes jumped sharply Tuesday as investors brushed off a pair of weak economic reports and an earthquake that shook the East Coast. The Dow has recovered 503 points in three days after a four-week losing streak.

The S&P 500 index, the measure used by most money managers, has surged 4.8 percent this week. Even after this week’s rally, it’s still down 8.9 percent in August and 6.4 percent for the year.