Stocks fall on poor jobless claims data

NEW YORK -- A surprisingly poor signal on the jobs market sent stocks slightly lower Thursday as investors remained worried about a lack of hiring.

Investors tried to muster a late-day rally, but there wasn't enough momentum to push the Dow Jones industrial average back into positive territory. The Dow and broader indexes also fell modestly.

The Labor Department said initial claims for jobless benefits jumped to 479,000 last week from a 460,000 a week earlier. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast new claims would fall modestly. The surprise jump suggests that employers still are reluctant to create jobs, which could keep a damper on economic growth the coming months.

Trading volume on the New York Stock Exchange fell to its second-lowest level of the year as many traders avoid the market altogether.

Retail sales edge up; shoppers still wary

NEW YORK -- Deep discounts on summer leftovers and hot weather drove shoppers into malls in July, but they remained choosy, resulting in only overall modest gains.

The sluggish spending, which is being compared with a miserable July 2009, bodes poorly for the back-to-school season as Americans step up saving amid a stalling economic recovery.

For shoppers, it could mean big discounts. Already, teen clothing sellers like Abercrombie & Fitch are offering generous price cuts on new jeans to lure shoppers.

Consumers buying more TV services

PHILADELPHIA -- Consumers are feeling more confident about spending on discretionary purchases such as premium cable services and pay-per-view, propelling the earnings of cable and satellite TV upward in the second quarter. Advertisers also felt more confident to spend, especially in automotive.

Time Warner Cable Inc., DirecTV Inc. and Cablevision Systems Corp. all show healthy upticks in demand for their pricier digital cable tiers, high-def TV packages and rentals of digital recorders and movies.

GM CEO sees good demand for shares

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Demand for General Motors Co. stock should be good once the company decides to offer its shares to the public, CEO Ed Whitacre said Thursday.

The company, he said, is moving as fast as it can to offer shares for sale, but Whitacre would not comment on the timing other than to say as soon as possible.

GM spokesmen later said the decision on when and how much equity to sell will be made by current stockholders, the U.S. and Canadian governments, a United Auto Workers health care trust and former bondholders.

Kraft's 2Q income increases by 13.3%

NORTHFIELD, Ill. -- Kraft Foods Inc. says its net income grew 13.3 percent in the second quarter, but it trimmed its sales outlook in an increasingly competitive market.

The nation's largest food maker said Thursday that it earned $937 million, or 53 cents per share, for the quarter. That's up from $827 million, or 56 cents per share, a year earlier.

Kraft, which makes Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers and bought British confectioner Cadbury in February, had more shares outstanding in this year's second quarter.