US markets in holding pattern following recent highs

Wall Street drifted lower in early trading, despite activity picking up in the US according to firms responding to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's latest manufacturing business outlook survey and the Department of Labor reporting a modest increase in jobless claims.

Soon after the open, the Dow was 5.15 points lower at 20,606.71, the S&P was down 3.03 at 2,346.22 and the Nasdaq was almost unchanged at 5,818.32.

Fallers on the Dow included Caterpillar and Merck, both off by around 1%. TripAdvisor was the largest faller on the S&P.

At 2:55pm (GMT), WTI crude was $53.49/bbl and Brent was $56.07/bbl. Gold was trading around $1,240/oz.

US ECONOMIC NEWS

Activity picked up in the US according to firms responding to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's latest manufacturing business outlook survey.

In the week ending February 11, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims in the US was 239,000, an increase of 5,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 234,000, a report from the Department of Labor showed.

The 4-week moving average was 245,250, an increase of 500 from the previous week's revised average.

Privately-owned housing starts in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,246,000, the US Census Bureau and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development said today.

This is 2.6% below the revised December estimate of 1,279,000, but is 10.5% above the January 2016 rate of 1,128,000.

Single-family housing starts in January were at a rate of 823,000; this is 1.9% above the revised December figure of 808,000.

Privately-owned US housing units authorised by building permits in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,285,000, the US Census Bureau and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development said today.

This is 4.6% above the revised December rate of 1,228,000 and is 8.2% above the January 2016 rate of 1,188,000.