U.S. stocks and exchange traded funds (ETFs) edged up in morning trading as investors were further encouraged that the economy is stabilizing.

The Labor Department reported that workers filing for jobless claims for the first time dipped to 545,000 last week from a revised 557,000 from the previous week.  This was the lowest level of new claims since early July, which indicates that job cuts could be easing.  The report, however, indicated that those who continue to file for claims increased to 6.2 million, reports the Associated Press.

In the real estate arena, the Commerce Department said housing starts increased in August to their highest level in nine months amid a jump in apartment building. Housing starts rose 1.5% to an annual rate of 598,000 units last month, just below the 600,000-unit pace economists had forecast.  The news sent the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Real Estate (NYSEArca: IYR) up 1.4% in morning trading.

Manufacturing continues to outperform as the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s general economic index measuring manufacturing in the Philadelphia area rose to 14.1 from 4.2 in August.  The measure showed the first back-to-back monthly growth since the end of 2007.

At the G-20 summit, President Barack Obama and other world leaders are expected to pledge to keep economic stimulus policies and packages in place until all are certain that an economic recovery is actually ocurring.  Additionally, leaders will try to ensure the expansion around the world, especially in emerging markets, is balanced. It’s a goal economists say will require more savings in the United States and greater domestic demand in countries such as China, states Rebecca Christie and Hans Nichols of Bloomberg.

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