U.S. stock markets made strong gains in early trading Thursday, rebounding from a sell-off in the previous session as new economic data indicated that U.S. companies are laying off fewer workers.
The U.S. government said first-time claims for jobless benefits fell to a four-month low in the past week. Major U.S. stock indexes rose more than two-percent after that report came out. Another report showed U.S. exports fell in June, causing the U.S. trade deficit to widen to $53 billion, the largest gap since October 2008.
European markets mixed
European stock markets were mixed in afternoon trading. Investors sold European bank shares because of concerns about the sector’s exposure to indebted European governments. French central bank chief Christian Noyer tried to reassure the market about the health of French commercial banks, saying their recent results show the industry is financially solid.
Shares of French bank Societe Generale fell again after Wednesday’s near-15-percent plunge on rumors that it was in financial trouble. The bank’s CEO Frederic Oudea dismissed the rumors as baseless. French securities regulator AMF warned of penalties for anyone profiting from the spread of what it called “unfounded rumors” about French banks.
British Treasury chief George Osborne said the global economy is facing its most dangerous time since the 2008 financial crisis. In a speech to the British parliament, he said the recovery from that crisis will take longer and be harder than had been hoped.
Asian markets fell earlier in the day.
Obama to visit high-tech facility
U.S. President Barack Obama was due to travel to the Midwestern state of Michigan Thursday to tour a high-tech industrial facility and give a speech about encouraging innovative technologies to create domestic jobs.
Obama met with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on Wednesday to discuss how to reduce the huge U.S. budget deficit and how to respond to the euro zone debt crisis.
Global markets had rallied on Tuesday after the Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank, announced it will keep its key interest rate between zero and one-quarter of a percent until at least 2013. But new concerns about weak economic growth in the U.S. and reports that France might lose its top AAA credit rating wiped out those gains on Wednesday.