NEW YORK (Reuters) - New claims for unemployment benefits fell back to a four-year low last week, a government report showed on Thursday, suggesting further strengthening in the labor market.
The pace of manufacturing in New York State picked up modestly in March, though new orders eased and prices paid jumped to the highest level in close to a year, the New York Federal Reserve said in a report on Thursday.
U.S. producer prices recorded their biggest gain in five months in February as the cost of energy spiked, a government report showed on Thursday, but underlying inflation pressures were contained.
ANDREW WILKINSON, CHIEF ECONOMIC STRATEGIST, MILLER TABAK & CO, NEW YORK
"In order to see an improvement in payrolls data from admittedly encouraging levels, we estimate that the weekly claims series must head towards the vicinity of 310,000. Last week's dip to 351,000 was a decent start albeit from a higher base following an upwards revision to 365,000 the prior week. The four-week moving average remains unchanged at 356,000 as the headline reading remains near four-year lows. There was also some comfort from the 81,000 decline in continuing claims. Emergency and extended claimants both declined to support the view that perhaps more people are starting to return to the labor market in the hope that the hunt for work looks brighter."
CHRISTOPHER LOW, CHIEF ECONOMIST, FTN FINANCIAL, NEW YORK
JOBLESS CLAIMS: "It's nice to see another decline. It wasn't expected to be down this much and it puts us right back at the February low, which is good stuff.
"Last year the low for claims before December was way back in the very tail end of February. Claims started to rise in March and were almost back to 500,000 by the end of last April so it's nice to see how far we've come in the last year. We've made significant progress.
PPI: "A 0.4 percent rise, it's the biggest increase since last September. We know where the pressure is coming from. It's gasoline prices, and it wasn't as bad as people expected it to be. The most important thing is the year-on-year rate of inflation actually slowed down a little bit."
RYAN DETRICK, SENIOR TECHNICAL STRATEGIST, SCHAEFFER'S INVESTMENT RESEARCH IN CINCINNATI
"You look at it and obviously it is continued expansion in the economic growth across the board. The claims obviously continue to improve and that is the thing we are most encouraged by - the jobs continue to slowly improve and this is clearly a step in the right direction. That manufacturing data came in once again stronger so this is really nothing new. This is continued strength that we've seen the last eight weeks or so - economic growth grows higher."
FRANK LESH, FUTURES ANALYST AND BROKER AT FUTUREPATH TRADING LLC IN CHICAGO
"We like claims moving in the right direction still. The inflation number is pretty much on the money here, year-on-year it's a little hot. Empire State is better than expected, so overall supportive of equities. I don't know how much it's going to add (to the rally). We are pretty much out of gas here."
SCOTT BROWN, CHIEF ECONOMIST, RAYMOND JAMES, ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA
"PPI was pretty close to expectations. Jobless claims fell more than expected and the New York Fed Empire index came in higher than expected. This suggests that the recovery is firmly on track. This lowers the chances of QE3. This should be good news for stocks and not so good for bonds. But if interest rates continue to head higher, the Fed might be forced to come in with QE3."
TOM PORCELLI, CHIEF U.S. ECONOMIST, RBC CAPITAL MARKETS, NEW YORK
"I think the Empire number is certainly stronger on the headline but when you look down beneath the surface it's more mixed, so we would kind of fade the headline. It's not as robust as the headline might lead you to believe. But even the underlying data that isn't as strong is still holding up well."
VIMOMBI NSHOM, ECONOMIST, IFR ECONOMICS, A UNIT OF THOMSON REUTERS
"The number of people filing their first claim to qualify for unemployment benefits fell, more than economists expected, to 351,000 in the week ending March 10. It's a decline of 14k, which erased all of the increases recorded in prior reports -- three in total. Prior to that three-week trend, claims had been on a downward trend, also lasting three weeks. Filing behavior now resembles what it was mid-February, when the market hesitated to accept claims would consistently post below 350k.
"The last report's rise of 8k to 362k claims was revised to an 11k-increase, raising the count to 365k claims in the week ending March 3. Now, claims' moving average has held at 355,750 for the second week, which shows how helpful this double-digit decline is, given the fact that claims have risen in three of the past four weeks. In the past nine weeks, claims fell consistently for seven, the break in the pattern occurring in last week's report as that figure represented an increase of 1k."
(Americas Economics and Markets Desk; +1-646 223-6300)