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Markets & Finance

Stocks Finish Mixed

Stocks finished mixed Thursday, as traders took in weak earnings from two clothing retailers, a drop in Google (GOOG) shares, and a stronger-than-expected Philadelphia Federal Reserve index number. Component Altria (MO) lended strength to the Dow average, however, on speculation that it would see a favorable court ruling in a class-action lawsuit.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 4.22 points, or 0.04%, to 10,554.93. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 1.22 points, or 0.10%, to 1,219.02. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite was down 9.07 points, or 0.42%, to 2,136.08.

Initial Jobless claims rose by 6,000 to 316,000 for the week ending Aug. 13. The number slightly beat economists' median expectations, though nevertheless reflect a healthy job market, says Action Economics.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve's U.S. index surged to 17.5 in August from 9.6 in July, beating market forecasts by a healthy margin. The August number is the highest since April. Employment improved to 6.3 from 3.4, and new orders rose to 19.8 from 5.0. Prices paid and received were weaker, however. "The mix of data, with stronger headline activity but cooler prices, could keep Treasuries fairly steady," says Action Economics.

Oil prices settled up 2 cents at $63.27 a barrel on Thursday, after a $2 plunge Wednesday. Prices had been ranging as low as $62.25, but buying took over toward the end of the session.

In corporate news, Google submitted a filing with the Securities Exchange Commission that it would make a public offering of roughly 14.2 million shares. The stock traded 4% lower on the news. Tomorrow marks the company's one-year anniversary of its successful IPO.

Limited Brands (LTD) posted second-quarter earnings of $113.1 million, or 27 cents a share, a 24% drop from the same quarter a year ago. Gross margins slipped during the quarter, and the company said it expcects same-store sales to slip slightly in August.

Hot Topic (HOTT), another clothing retailer, saw second-quarter earnings of $893,000, or 2 cents per share, down from 9 cents per share during the same period a year ago. The company also cut its guidance for the rest of the year, sending shares plummeting.

In deal news, Tommy Hilfiger (TOM) is preparing to put itself on the auction block in coming weeks, though it's not certain the move will result in a sale, according to people familiar with matter, reports

Six Flags (PKS) says Daniel Snyder initiated a shareholder proxy contest to take control of the company by seeking to control 3 of 7 seats on the board and upping his personal stake in the company to nearly 35%. S&P and Bear Stearns upgraded the stock.

Treasury Market

Treasury yields fell following the Philadelphia Fed number, and the rise in jobless claims earlier in the moring. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note finished at 4.20%.

World Markets

European stock markets finished lower on Thursday. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index fell 23.40 points, or 0.44%, to 5,269.3. U.K. retail sales dipped 0.3% in July, as October Brent crude oil futures traded higher.

Germany's DAX index fell 20.19 points, or 0.41%, to 4,851.27, following a report that the Eurozone consumer price index was up 2.2% vs. the same period a year ago, while the core index unexpectedly fell to 1.3%.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index dropped 9.56 points, or 0.22%, to 4,430.07, as oil prices in Europe edged higher.

Asian markets ended mixed Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 34.25 points, or 0.28%, to 12,307.37.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong and South Korea, stocks plunged. The Hang Seng index finished down 301.49 points, or 1.95% to 15,148.09, with blue chips down across the board. Profit-taking was a major cause, says Standard & Poor's MarketScope, but large warrants contracts this week also spurred on the selling. In South Korea, tech heavyweights Samsung Electronics and Hynix Semiconductor were down 2.97% and 2.71% respectively.

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