U.S. stocks little changed as retailers drop before jobs report

Jobs Data

Data today showed applications for U.S. unemployment benefits declined by 15,000 to 330,000 in the period ended Jan. 4. The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected 335,000. The data can be volatile after the holidays as temporary workers are dismissed, a Labor Department spokesman said as the report was released.

A report from the ADP Research Institute yesterday showed companies added 238,000 workers in December, the biggest increase since November 2012. A Labor Department report tomorrow may show total payrolls rose by 197,000 last month, according to a Bloomberg survey median. That would bring the total for the year to 2.27 million, the most since 2005.

‘Tipping Point’

Alcoa Inc., the largest U.S. aluminum maker that will release quarterly results after the close of trading today, slid 1.3% to $10.69. The company agreed to pay $384 million to settle U.S. allegations that one of its units bribed members of Bahrain’s royal family and officials at a state-owned company to win business.

Analysts predict that companies in the S&P 500 will increase their earnings by 9.7% on average this year and their sales by 3.8%, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. will all post their results next week.

“We are at a tipping point -- if not a turning point -- where markets will start to be driven by earnings per share and not price-to-earnings ratios,” said Romain Boscher at Amundi Asset Management in Paris, which oversees about $1 trillion.

www.bloomberg.com

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