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Benchmarks failed to sustain initial gains, sparked off by a better-than-expected fall in initial claims, and ended flat. Initial claims were down to the lowest level in more than four and half years and set the positive tone in the initial hours. Meanwhile, tech-bellwether Apple’s shares were dealt a blow after a U.S. court lifted the sales ban on Samsung Galaxy Nexus in the country. This eventually affected the broader markets.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) lost 0.1% to close the day at 13,326.39. The Standard & Poor 500 (S&P 500) edged up 0.28 point or 0.02%; to finish yesterday’s trading session at 1,432.84. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 0.1% to end at 3,049.41. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) was down 4.3% and settled at 15.59. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 6.1 billion shares, slightly lower than this year’s daily average of 6.52 billion shares. The advancers on the New York Stock Exchange outpaced the declining stocks; as for 64% stocks that gained, 33% stocks closed lower.

Markets opened on a positive note boosted by initial claims data from the U.S. Department of Labor According to the report, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims declined 30,000 from the prior week’s 369,000 to come down to 339,000 for the week ending October 6. This was lower than the consensus estimates of 367,000.

The encouraging initial claims data comes a week after the government reported the unemployment rate was at its lowest since 2009. Last week, the government reported that the unemployment rate dropped by 0.3% to 7.8% in September. Not only was this well below consensus estimates of 8.2%, but the unemployment rate dropped below 8% for the first time in almost four years.

Meanwhile, Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares slumped 2% following news that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has overturned a lower court’s ban on sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smartphones in the U.S. The fall in Apple’s shares not only dragged down the technology sector, but also affected the broader markets.

Coming to the sectors, the energy sector led the gains among S&P 500’s industry groups. The Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) gained 0.8%. Stocks such as Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX), Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM), TOTAL S.A.(NYSE:TOT), BP plc(NYSE:BP) and Statoil ASA(NYSE:STO) gained 0.5%, 0.2%, 1.3%, 0.8% and 1.3%, respectively.

The financial sector also had a good run yesterday and most of the stocks ended in the green. The Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF) climbed 0.5%. Stocks such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM), Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C), Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS), PNC Financial Services (NYSE:PNC) and KeyCorp (NYSE:KEY) gained 0.8%, 1.1%, 1.6%, 0.6% and 0.5% respectively.

Separately, Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S) registered one of its busiest trading days with more than 320 million shares traded.  Sprint’s shares were up 14.3% after Japan’s cellphone company Softbank Corp agreed to a potential ownership stake in the company. Sprint is reportedly in talks to sell roughly 70% of its stake to Softbank.

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