A strengthening dollar and a higher-than-expected number for unemployment claims pushed stocks and exchange traded funds (ETFs) lower this morning. This was despite positive data from the Philly Fed survey and the LEI or leading economic indicators rising for the eighth month in a row.

Initial jobless claims for the week ended Dec. 12 rose by 7,000 to 480,000, which surprised economists who were expecting a decline. This data served as a reminder that the labor market will take time to strengthen and may weigh on the economic recovery, reported Timothy R. Homan for Bloomberg. Concerns over the lack of jobs prompted the Federal Reserve yesterday to reiterate a pledge to keep interest rates low for an “extended period.”

The Conference Board’s gauge of future economic conditions rose for the eighth month a row with the LEI increasing by 0.9% in November. The index was boosted by improving financial conditions, housing and employment, reported Lisa Lambert for Reuters. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s Index of manufacturing improved more than expected to 20.4 this month from 16.7, reported Deborah Levine for Marketwatch.

The U.S. dollar surged this morning, hitting a three-month high on the back of continued worries about the European economy, report Deborah Levine and Steve Goldstein for MarketWatch. The euro tumbled as Standard & Poor’s downgraded Greece’s sovereign debt rating, following a similar move by Fitch last week. Worries continue that Greece will struggle to rein in a deficit that stands at more than 12% of the GDP. The British pound fell to a two-month low after weak retail sales were reported. [For more stories about the US dollar, please visit our U.S. dollar category.]