Wall Street stocks declined early Thursday, extending a period of choppiness as investors weigh better employment data and the latest dovish Federal Reserve commentary. New applications for US unemployment benefits fell to 360,000 last week, the lowest level since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Labor Department data showed. The improving jobs picture comes as markets await a second day of congressional testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell, who acknowledged on Wednesday that inflation had topped expectations, but said the US economy still needs significant support to fully recover. About 15 minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.3 percent at 34,827.06. The broad-based S&P 500 also fell 0.3 percent to 4,361.93, along with the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index, which stood at 14,601.54. China’s GDP growth came in at 7.9 percent on-year in the April to June period, said the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) — a significant drop from the 18.3 percent surge in the first three months. However, other Chinese data on retail sales and industrial production came in stronger than expected, offsetting the weaker GDP figure somewhat, analysts said. Morgan Stanley became the latest financial heavyweight to drop despite reporting better- than-expected results. Shares were off 0.6 percent in what analysts have described as a “sell the news” dynamic after gains earlier in the year.