Investors took a cautious stance on Wall Street Thursday, leaving stocks mixed as they questioned whether a bill to rescue Detroit's carmakers will pass the Senate.
The $14 billion of loans to cash-starved General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC could go before the Senate as early as Thursday. But, based on concerns raised by Republicans, and even some uncertain support among Democrats, approval is not guaranteed.
Those opposed are arguing that any support for the domestic auto industry should carry significant concessions from autoworkers and creditors and reject tougher environmental rules imposed by House Democrats. The House approved the plan late Wednesday on a vote of 237-170 to infuse money within days to the two struggling automakers. Ford Motor Co. has said it does not need aid.
"If this doesn't pass, the market would show it wasn't happy with that," said Neil Massa, equity trader at John Hancock Funds. "There would just be many more people unemployed that would be a drain on society instead of a contribution, and that's never a good thing considering we're in a recession. I can't imagine they'd let that happen."
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The heads of the three automakers said that even one of the companies going into bankruptcy would slam an already battered economy with thousands of job losses. Meanwhile, the government said Thursday initial claims for unemployment insurance jumped to a 26-year high. The Labor Department said initial claims for unemployment insurance rose to a seasonally adjusted 573,000, from an upwardly revised 515,000 for the previous week. The latest figure was significantly above analysts' estimates of 525,000, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.
In midmorning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 3.82, or 0.04 percent, to 8,757.60.
Broader indexes were mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.56, or 0.17 percent, to 900.80, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 4.53, or 0.29 percent, to 1,560.95.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 2.56, or 0.54 percent, to 473.84.
Jury begins third day of deliberating Nichols case
Jurors began a third day of deliberating a sentence for the Atlanta man who killed a judge and three other people in a shooting spree that began in a downtown courthouse.
The jury reached no decision Wednesday on whether to condemn Brian Nichols to death row or sentence him to life behind bars for the 2005 rampage. The panel began deliberating Tuesday morning and will return Thursday. As of Thursday morning, they had deliberated more than 18 hours.
The 37-year-old was found guilty last month of murder and dozens of other charges for killing the judge, a court reporter and a sheriff's deputy at the courthouse and a federal agent in an Atlanta neighborhood on March 11, 2005.
Court to hear case of Georgia boy dropped off in Nebraska
A custody hearing for a Smyrna woman who dropped off her 12-year-old son at a Nebraska hospital under the state's safe haven law is scheduled for Thursday.
The hearing has been delayed twice in Cobb County, Ga., Juvenile Court for 33-year-old Tysheema Brown. Brown has said she was worried her son would end up in jail if she didn't do something drastic to address his unruly behavior.
She said she took him to Nebraska in hopes of getting him into Boys Town High School, a school for troubled youths. Brown graduated from Boys Town in the 1990s.
The boy has been in state custody since returning to Georgia in late October.
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