ETF UpdateU.S. stocks and exchange traded funds (ETFs) fluctuated this morning as the economy showed signs of stabilization and a better-than expected jobless report encouraged investors.

The Labor Department reported that new jobless claims fell more than expected to 550,000 last week and total unemployment rolls dropped. Additionally, those who continued to receive benefits dropped by 159,000, putting the total number at nearly 6.1 million, the lowest level since mid-April, reports Christopher S. Rugaber for the Associated Press.

A survey conducted by the Federal Reserve provided reassurance that the economy is showing signs of stabilization. Of the Fed’s 12 regions, 11 indicated economic activity was either stable or was showing signs of stabilization. The exception was the St. Louis region, which stated that its economic decline is moderating.

Foreclosure filings from July to August dropped 13%, a signal that lenders are working with borrowers and that it’s having an impact. The number is still up 18% from last year, reports Robert Daniel for MarketWatch.

In other news, the Commerce Department stated that the U.S. trade deficit rose 16.3% to $32 billion in July, much larger than the $27.4 billion imbalance anticipated by economists. The jump was primarily driven by a surge in shipments of foreign oil and automobiles. It’s the largest deficit since 1999, reports Bob Willis for Bloomberg.

Crude oil continued its gains as the volatile commodity went north of $72/barrel at a point in intraday trading. This recent uptrend has been fueled by a weakening dollar, OPEC’s decision to maintain production levels and a report released by the International Energy Agency which indicated that the slump in demand for crude will be less sever in 2009 than previously though. As a result, the United States Oil Fund (NYSE: USO) was up 0.7% in morning trading.

Overall, the markets remained mixed with the Nasdaq adding 0.1%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping 0.1% and the S&P 500 declining by 0.2%.

For more stories on oil, visit our oil category.

Kevin Grewal contributed to this article.

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