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Stocks fall...Jobless claims dip...Manufacturing, construction spending rise...Mortgage rates tick up

Thursday - 1/2/2014, 11:30am  ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks are falling in early trading on Wall Street as the market comes off of its biggest annual gain in nearly two decades. The S&P 500 rose nearly 30 percent in 2013, its best year since 1997. The Dow Jones industrial average rose the most since 1995. The Nasdaq was up more than 38 percent for the year.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department says the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dipped 2,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, while the less volatile four-week average rose 8,500 to 357,250. The numbers have been affected in recent weeks by seasonal volatility around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. manufacturing grew at a healthy pace in December as factories stepped up hiring and received more orders. The Institute for Supply Management says its index of manufacturing activity slipped to 57 from 57.3 in November. But that's still the second-highest reading in the past 2 ½ years. Any reading above 50 signals growth. A measure of new orders rose to the highest level since April 2010 and a gauge of hiring increased to its highest level since June 2011. Production and a measure of manufacturers' stockpiles fell.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Commerce Department says construction spending increased 1 percent in November, the strongest pace since March 2009 and a slight improvement over October's gain. Residential construction rose 1.9 percent, after falling in October. Commercial projects increased 2.7 percent in November, while government construction spending fell 1.8 percent after strong gains in October.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average rates for fixed mortgages have edged higher for the third straight week but are still low by historical standards. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average for the 30-year loan rose to 4.53 percent this week from 4.48 percent last week. The average for the 15-year loan increased to 3.55 percent from 3.52 percent.

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