Commodity trading reversals in US cause Japan and Korean markets to fall. Asian mining, energy companies drop with negative cast to commodity trading.
Benchmark crude for June delivery rose 93 cents to $100.73 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The day before, oil plunged nearly 9 percent to settle below $100 per barrel as mounting concerns about the U.S. economy triggered the biggest one-day percentage decline in more than two years. In commodity trading apart from oil, markets also fell broadly Thursday.
The drop in oil prices was a boost to airline companies, however. Taiwan's EVA Airways Corp. soared 6.3 percent, China's Eastern Airlines Corp. Ltd. jumped 4.6 percent, and South Korea's Asiana Airlines rose 2.9 percent.
Thursday's pullback in commodities indicated that some speculators were locking in their gains and that other investors were protecting profits because of concerns that Friday's U.S. jobs reports may be worse than originally thought.
On Wall Street, stock indexes fell after the Labor Department said that first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose to 474,000 last week, the highest level in eight months. Forecasters didn't see it coming. Economists had expected claims would drop to 410,000.
Applications for unemployment benefits have increased in three of the previous four weeks. The jump in claims, along with other signs the U.S. economic recovery is losing strength, have raised concerns about what the government's monthly jobs report for April will reveal when it is released Friday.
Prior to Wednesday, rising earnings had been driving stocks up in recent weeks. But even strong results reported Thursday by several large companies did not outweigh concerns about the economic recovery.
General Motors Co. was among the companies reporting higher profits Thursday. GM said its earnings more than tripled on stronger sales in the U.S. and China.