U.S. stock benchmarks were headed modestly lower Thursday morning after a string of economic reports underscored that the economy was recovering from the COVID pandemic. Initial jobless claims dropped by 20,000 to 385,000 in the week ended May 29, the government said Thursday, marking the fifth decline in a row and a fresh low in the era of COVID. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal had forecast new claims would slip to a seasonally adjusted 393,000. On top of that, private-sector employment surged by 978,000 in May, according to Automatic Data Processing Inc.’s National Economic Report, well above forecasts from economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal and Econoday, which forecast a gain of 680,000 jobs and 627,000, respectively. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 172 points, or 0.5%, at 34,431, the S&P 500 index was down 0.6% at 4,184, while the Nasdaq Composite Index declined 0.8% early in the session. In corporate news, shares of meme stock AMC Entertainment Holdings were down 13% after the movie chain said filed to sell 11.55 million of its shares. The company’s stock has climbed 114% so far this week and 2,500% in the year to date.

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