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NEW YORK (AP) -- The stock market fell in early trading Thursday after the Labor Department reported a spike in jobless claims, sapping some of the market's confidence ahead of Friday's anxiously anticipated March employment report.
Wall Street was disappointed to hear the government say the number of people applying for unemployment benefits rose by a full 38,000 last week to 407,000 - the highest level since September 2005. The less volatile four-week average of claims also increased, by 15,750 to 374,500.
Investors are also cautiously awaiting more testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is appearing before Congress for a second straight day. On Wednesday, the Fed chairman said a recession is possible in the first half of this year.