At the open, exchange traded funds (ETFs) were mostly flat after economic data had both the cost of living and the count of weekly filings for unemployment benefits rising more than anticipated.

  • U.S. core consumer prices rose at their quickest pace in more than a year in January, but the increase was not strong enough to suggest a troubling build-up in inflation pressures. The Labor Department said on Thursday its core Consumer Price Index, excluding food and energy, increased 0.2% – the largest gain since October 2009. The increase in the core rate, which was above economists’ expectations for a 0.1% gain, was driven by rises in the cost of apparel, shelter and airline fares. The rise suggests the disinflationary trend in core inflation has bottomed. PowerShares U.S. Dollar Bullish (NYSEArca: UUP) is down slightly this morning.
  • More people applied for unemployment benefits last week, one week after claims had fallen to the lowest level in nearly three years. The Labor Department said Thursday that 410,000 people sought unemployment assistance last week, a jump of 25,000 from the previous week. The rise was much larger than economists had expected. Applications are well below their peak of 651,000, reached in March 2009, when the economy was in the depths of the recession. Applications below 425,00 are viewed as a signal of modest job growth but they would need to dip consistently to 375,000 or below to indicate a significant and steady decline in the unemployment rate. The Direxion Daily 20+ Treasury Bull 3x ETF (NYSEArca: TMF) is up more than 1.5% in early trading as investors take safe-haven shelter.
  • Shares of natural-gas group Williams Cos. (NYSE: WMB) surged more than 10% after the group’s board approved a plan to spin off its exploration and production business. Also, the company said it’s hiking its dividend by 60% to 20 cents a share for the first quarter of 2011, to be paid in June. An additional 10% to 15% increase is planned with the June 2012 dividend payment. iShares S&P Global Infrastructure (NYSEArca: IGF) is up slighly; WMB is 3.3% of the ETF.
  • The index of manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region jumped in February to its highest level since January 2004, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported Thursday. The Philly Fed business condition index rose to 35.9 in February from 19.3 in January. The increase was much stronger than expected. Economists polled by MarketWatch expected the index to tick higher to 20.8. The Industrial Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLI) is flat in early trading.

Gregory A. Clay contributed to this article.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.