Banking stocks closed down slightly on Thursday even as some positive news in a mixed jobs report drove the overall markets higher.

The KBW Bank Index fell 0.85%, to 43.15.

Joe Saluzzi, a co-manager of trading at Themis Trading, said investors in financial stocks seemed worried that signs of improvement in the economy could spur the government to raise rates on the money it lends, which would sharply cut into their profits.

"How much more can they print the free money that they're getting?" he said. "That is a secret bailout."

Though financial stocks underperformed, the overall markets rallied after a Labor Department report said the four-week average of jobless claims fell for a 14th straight week even as the number of newly laid off workers claiming benefits rose more than expected. The number of people continuing to claim benefits also fell.

The report was not entirely good but still indicated that job cuts are slowing.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.67%, and the S&P 500 Index, 0.06%.

The largest banking companies had a mixed day.

Bank of America Corp. fell 1.23% as investors waited for the Charlotte company to appoint a successor to the departing chief executive, Ken Lewis.

Citigroup Inc., meanwhile, rose a penny a share, to $3.87, as media reports swirled that the New York lender was planning a stock offering as it negotiates to repay its federal aid.

Wells Fargo & Co. Inc. fell 2.35%, but JPMorgan Chase & Co. rose 0.12%.

Regional banking companies, meanwhile, had a relatively bad day. Comerica Inc. fell 1.3%; Fifth Third Bancorp, 2.04%; KeyCorp, 1.18%; PNC Financial Services Group Inc., 2.21%, and SunTrust Banks Inc., 1.13%.

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