Traders Try to Temper Bleak Results

December has been a mildly positive month for the market in recent years. Since 2008, the S&P 500 has averaged a 1.4% gain for the month. The Dow has averaged a 1.7% increase and the Nasdaq has gained an average of 1.8%. Those numbers are skewed higher by strong rebounds coming out of the 2008-09 market trough.

Chevron (CVX) stepped up 1% in the Dow. Independent Research, a brokerage, upgraded the stock to buy from hold. Apple (AAPL) was nearly flat.

Drug maker Bluebird Bio (BLUE) spiked 24% at the open after reporting late Wednesday that clinical trials for a blood cancer treatment met targeted results.

Apparel brand Guess (GES) zipped 11% lower on weak third-quarter results, and disappointing fourth-quarter guidance, reported after Wednesday’s close.

Clothing retailer Express (EXPR) crumbled 16%. The chain’s third-quarter results bested analyst views, but fourth-quarter guidance was far below estimates.

Pollution filtration manufacturer Clarcor (CLC) spiked 18% early Thursday. Hydraulics and fluid control equipment heavyweight Parker Hannifin (PH) said it had agreed to acquire the company in a deal valued at $4.3 billion, including debt. Parker Hannifin shares rose 2% at the open. The stock has been trading tight, near highs and extended after clearing a flat base in early November.

Layoffs decreased to 29,936 in November, the lowest level of the year according to a monthly report from consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The cuts were down 12% from October’s firings and 13% below year-ago levels.  Year to date, 2016 layoff levels are running 5.5% below those of 2015.

Unemployment claims rose to 268,000 in the week ended Nov. 26, the Labor Department reported.  That was up from 251,000 claims in the prior week, and well above consensus expectations for a dip to 253,000 claims.

London-based researcher Markit serves up its October manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index at 9:45 a.m. ET. Construction spending numbers from the Commerce Department follow at 10 a.m. ET, along with the Institute for Supply Management’s November manufacturing index. Auto makers will be reporting November sales figures throughout the day.

Oil prices climbed 2%, lifting West Texas Intermediate to just above $50 a barrel. Oil prices rallied 9% on Wednesday.

Gold dipped 0.1% to near $1,172 an ounce. The dollar edged up to a nine-month high vs. the yen in early trade, then weakened. Bonds slipped, lifting the 10-year yield 3 basis points to 2.41%.

Overseas, China’s markets posed moderate gains. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 jumped 1.1%, turning positive for the week.

Stocks in Europe were under some selling pressure in afternoon trade, with the CAC 40 in Paris down 0.3%, Frankfurt’s DAX off 0.7% and London’s FTSE 100 down 1.1%.