A few steps forward, a few steps back. After five days of gains, stocks and exchange traded funds (ETFs) are on the hunt for direction this morning after jobless claims for the week rose and foreclosure rates jumped the most in five years.

First-time unemployment claims unexpectedly rose for the second consecutive weeks. It’s a downbeat follow-up to last week’s unemployment report showing job creation in March. The unemployment rate remains at 9.7% and analysts says the job recovery will be a slow one.

UPS (NYSE: UPS) announced that its earnings per share rose 33% in the first quarter. The shipper also raised its full-year forecast based on improvements witnessed in international shipping. UPS is the world’s largest shipping company, so any results from them are given a heavy weight. iShares Dow Jones U.S. Transportation Average (NYSEArca: IYT) is up nearly 2% so far today; UPS is 8% of the ETF. [Behind the Airline ETF’s Comeback.]

Manufacturers rejoiced this morning after reports that factory production surged 0.9% last month. Those gains follow on the heels of a 0.2% increase in February. While the labor market is still in trouble, at least other engines driving the economy are operational. Vanguard Industrials (NYSEArca: VIS) is up about 1%. [ETFs to Play Industrial Activity Improvements.]

Rio Tinto’s (NYSE: RTP) first-quarter results didn’t light the markets on fire, but that’s not stopping the mining behemoth from forecasting better days ahead. While profits were lower than forecast, Rio said commodity prices were surging ahead of analyst projections. Market Vectors Steel (NYSEArca: SLX) is down 1% today; Rio Tinto is 11.7%. [Pricing Changes Could Work in Steel ETFs’ Favor.]