The Commerce Department said the excess of imports over exports grew to $11.1 billion in September — an increase of 17 percent on the previous month. Economists had been predicting a somewhat smaller gap of around $10.2 billion. The deficit hike could help prevent the Federal Reserve from raising interest rates soon, reducing the threat to stocks. But what's good for the market is not necessarily good for the nation: the trade deficit could swell further as America becomes glutted with Asian imports made even cheaper by devalued overseas currencies.
Another vital economic indicator came in Thursday from the Labor Department. Initial jobless claims in the U.S. grew by 20,000 last week. Wall Street was hoping the unemployment rate would hold steady. That's bad news for workers, but good news for inflation. The 24-year low 4.7 percent monthly unemployment rate announced on November 7 had been giving analysts heart attacks.