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US Jobless Claims Hover at Low Levels; Producer Prices Rise

FILE - A "Now Hiring" sign is posted on a Verizon store in Manhattan in New York City, May 10, 2016.
FILE - A "Now Hiring" sign is posted on a Verizon store in Manhattan in New York City, May 10, 2016.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly held at lower levels last week, pointing to further momentum in the labor market after job growth surged in June.

Another report on Thursday showed producer prices recorded their biggest gain in a year in June on rising costs for energy products and services. The data signaled economic strength that could allow the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates later this year.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits were unchanged at a seasonally adjusted 254,000 for the week ended July 9, the Labor Department said. Claims are near the 43-year low of 248,000 touched in mid-April.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast initial claims rising to 265,000 in the latest week. Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 71 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since 1973.

The labor market is on a strong footing, with nonfarm payrolls having increased by a robust 287,000 jobs in June, which should underpin economic growth for the rest of the year.

Prices for U.S. Treasuries fell slightly and the dollar pared losses against a basket of currencies after Thursday's data. U.S. stock futures were trading higher.

In a second report, the Labor Department said its producer price index for final demand rose 0.5 percent last month, the largest increase since May 2015, after advancing 0.4 percent in May.

In the 12 months through June, the PPI increased 0.3 percent, rising for the first time since December 2014, after slipping 0.1 percent in May.

Producer inflation is being boosted by the fading drag from a strong dollar and lower oil prices.

The dollar's surge between June 2014 and December 2015 put downward pressure on producer prices, helping to keep inflation below the Fed's 2 percent target.

The greenback's rally appears to be over. The currency has slipped on a trade-weighted basis this year while oil prices have rebounded from multi-year lows.

Last month, energy prices jumped 4.1 percent after increasing 2.8 percent in May. Prices for services rose 0.4 percent after gaining 0.2 percent in May. Services were boosted by a surge in costs related to securities brokerage and dealing.

Healthcare costs were unchanged as a 0.1 percent rise in doctor visits was offset by weak home healthcare services.

A key measure of underlying producer price pressures that excludes food, energy and trade services rose 0.3 percent last month after edging down 0.1 percent in May. The so-called core PPI was up 0.9 percent in the 12 months through June. The core PPI increased 0.8 percent in May.

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    Reuters is a news agency founded in 1851 and owned by the Thomson Reuters Corporation based in Toronto, Canada. One of the world's largest wire services, it provides financial news as well as international coverage in over 16 languages to more than 1000 newspapers and 750 broadcasters around the globe.