Bank stocks and the broader markets struggled to break out of negative territory Thursday, dragged down by discouraging numbers from retailers and telecommunication companies.

The KBW Bank Index closed down 0.5%, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.27%, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index was off 0.56%.

Investors ignored an encouraging report from the Labor Department that initial unemployment claims for the week that ended Aug. 1 fell 6.5% from the prior week, to 550,000. Economists on average had expected 580,000 claims.

Decliners included JPMorgan Chase & Co., off 2.5%; Wells Fargo & Co., 0.2%; U.S. Bancorp, 1.7%; M&T Bank Corp., 1.8%, and SunTrust Banks Inc., 2.8%.

Analysts at KBW Inc.'s Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. cut the rating of SunTrust's stock from "outperform" to "market perform," stating that the Atlanta company probably will not make money until mid-2010 due to continued credit costs.

Gainers included Bank of America Corp., up 0.2%; Capital One Financial Corp., 2.3%; Marshall & Ilsley Corp., 0.2%; KeyCorp., 2.5%, and Zions Bancorp., 2%.

PNC Financial Services Group Inc. was unchanged from Wednesday's closing price of $41.22 a share.

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