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NEW YORK: Wall Street stocks opened lower early Thursday with nerves still high over potential interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.

The sell-off comes as US weekly initial jobless claims fell to 232,000 – the lowest level in two months and a third week of decline.

While low unemployment is a sign of economic health, a strong labor market can also spur fears of wage spirals and higher inflation, and create incentive for the Fed to maintain its aggressive monetary tightening posture as it battles surging prices.

“Good news on initial jobless claims is tantamount to bad news for the stock market,” said Briefing.com analyst Patrick O’Hare.

“It reinforces the point that the labor market isn’t soft enough to compel the Fed to pause its rate hikes.”

Markets will also be looking to Friday’s monthly government jobs data for its implications on US monetary policy.

Wall Street slumps for 4th straight session on Fed outlook

About 15 minutes into the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.4 percent at 31,389.01.

The broad-based S&P 500 fell 0.5 percent to 3,934.60, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index tumbled 0.8 percent to 11,708.62.

In individual firms, discount chain Five Below rose 5.9 percent despite a miss on earnings and revenue expectations.

Disney, meanwhile, was down 0.7 percent after reports it is considering a new membership program similar to Amazon Prime.

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