NEW YORK: A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the end of the first trading session of 2012 on Jan 3.
Credit: Ramin Talaie

Bringing three days of optimism and gains to an end, Wall Street closed down slightly down on Thursday, marking 2012's first drop in the benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average, according to The Wall Street Journal.

After falling as much as 134 points in volatile fluctuations, the 30-stock blue-chip index closed down 0.02 percent, or only slightly, at 12415.70, with banks leading gains and air-craft manufacturer Boeing the biggest loser, falling $0.80 to $75.53. (The company on Wednesday announced it would close a plant in Wichita, KS with 2,160 workers after more than 80 years despite winning a US Air Force contract for mid-air refuelers, according to Bloomberg.)

The middling news out of New York contrasted with continued unhappiness in Europe, where banks were among the biggest decliners. The Stoxx Europe 600 dropped 0.9 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal, which noted that the Euro fell below $1.28 for the first time in 14 months due to the region's continued sovereign debt woes.

Meanwhile the US Labor Department reported today that first-time jobless claims had declined 4 percent to a seasonally-adjusted 372,000 last week, in another sign of sustained job creation, according to CNN, which said the figures were still slightly higher than those of the week of Dec 17, which saw the fewest jobless claims since April 2008, before the global financial crisis.

Today's gains by US banks on Wall Street marked a third straight day of increases, with Bank of America jumping 8.6 percent to $6.31, according to Reuters. "There are signs of potential stability in the housing market and U.S. banks are probably being helped by that," John Manley, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo Funds Management in New York, told the news agency.

However in an opposing view, Mark Gongloff of The Wall Street Journal's MarketBeat blog, called BofA's rise "astounding" and said this was "at least partly on rumors that the Obama Administration has a big mortgage refinancing plan in the works."

However, citing an anonymous "senior administration official," Bloomberg reported late Thursday that US authorities had no such plans.

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