Jobless Reports Fuel Fed Bets, U.S. Stocks Drop After GDP Jobless Reports Fuel Fed Bets

According to Bloomberg,

(Corrects Dollar General stock price in 17th paragraph.)

U.S. stock-index futures fell, signaling equities will extend a four-day slide, after data showing faster-than-forecast economic growth fueled speculation the Federal Reserve will curb stimulus spending.

Aeropostale Inc. lost 3.8 percent as the retailer’s fourth-quarter loss forecast was wider than estimated. Apple Inc. rose 1.4 percent as China Mobile Ltd. moved closer to offering its 759 million subscribers iPhones. General Growth Properties Inc. added 4.5 percent as Standard & Poor’s said it will add the mall owner to its benchmark index this month.

S&P 500 Index (SPX) futures expiring this month fell 0.3 percent to 1,787.20 at 9:12 a.m. in New York. Dow Jones Industrial Average contracts lost 39 points, or 0.3 percent, to 15,847 today.

“The numbers today pave the way for the Fed” to cut stimulus, Matthew Kaufler, a portfolio manager at Federated Investors Inc. in Rochester, New York, said by phone. His firm oversees $363.8 billion. “There’s angst in the short run, but I think it’s only positive in the long run that the Fed begin to taper and extricate itself from being the ultimate market maker.”

The S&P 500 has surged 26 percent this year, challenging 2003 for the biggest annual gain in the last 15 years, as the Fed refrained from reducing its monthly bond purchases and corporate earnings surpassed estimates.

Stimulus Bets

The central bank has said it will start slowing the pace of stimulus if the economy improves in line with its forecasts. Policy makers, who next meet Dec. 17-18, will probably wait until the March 18-19 Federal Open Market Committee session before reducing monthly bond purchases to $70 billion from $85 billion, according to the median estimate in Bloomberg’s latest survey of economists conducted on Nov. 8.

The U.S. economy expanded in the third quarter at a faster pace than initially reported, led by the biggest increase in inventories since early 1998. Consumer spending slowed. Gross domestic product climbed at a 3.6 percent annualized rate, up from an initial estimate of 2.8 percent and the strongest since the first quarter of 2012.

Separate data showed applications for U.S. employment benefits unexpectedly fell last week to the lowest level in more than two months. Jobless claims decreased 23,000 to 298,000 in the week ended Nov. 30, the Labor Department said.

Data tomorrow may show the unemployment rate fell to 7.2 percent, matching the lowest level since 2008.

Fed Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart, a backer of record stimulus, said today the central bank when considering tapering should announce a total limit on purchases or a timetable for dialing down the program.

‘Transition Process’

“If and when the FOMC arrives at a decision to wind down asset purchases, it’s my view that it will be helpful to the transition process to provide as much certainty as possible about how this will be done,” Lockhart said in a speech in Florida.

The S&P 500 has retreated 0.8 percent in the past four sessions, dropping to a two-week low after closing at a record on Nov. 27. The index fluctuated yesterday before closing lower by 0.1 percent, as optimism that lawmakers in Washington were close to a budget deal offset better-than-forecast jobs data that fueled stimulus-tapering concerns.

The gauge’s rally this year has pushed valuations higher, with the equity benchmark trading for about 16.1 times its constituents’ projected earnings, up 23 percent from the beginning of 2013 when it traded at 13.1 times projected profit.

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