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Weekly US jobless claims hit 9-month high of 379K

Updated: Friday, December 20, 2013 |
Weekly US jobless claims hit 9-month high of 379K story image
WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose 10,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 379,000, the highest since March. The increase may reflect volatility around the Thanksgiving holidays.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average jumped 13,250 to 343,250, the second straight increase.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Last month, they fell to nearly the lowest level in six years, as companies cut fewer jobs. But two weeks ago, they surged 64,000 to 369,000.

Economists dismissed that spike, saying it likely reflected a Thanksgiving holiday that fell later in the month. That can distort the government's seasonal adjustments. But if the trend continues it would be a troubling sign of rising layoffs.

The number of people receiving benefits rose sharply. More than 4.4 million people received unemployment benefits in the week ended Nov. 30, the latest data available. That was 600,000 more than the previous week. Those figures aren't adjusted for seasonal patterns.

Still, most other recent job market data has been positive and economists generally expect unemployment benefits applications will soon fall back.

"We are inclined to ignore the recent claims data," said Joseph LaVorgna, an economist at Deutsche Bank. "We see little evidence to suggest that the labor market trend of the past few months has meaningfully changed."

Hiring has been healthy for the past four months. The economy added an average of 204,000 jobs a month from August through November, a solid improvement from earlier in the year. The unemployment rate fell in November to a five-year low of 7 percent.

The unemployment rate remains above the historic averages of 5 percent to 6 percent that are associated with strong job markets.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday that he expects the robust job gains to continue. Americans are spending more and the economy is less restrained by higher taxes and government spending cuts, he said.

Those trends have "increased our confidence that the job market gains will continue," Bernanke said at a press conference.

The Fed said Wednesday that it would scale back its monthly bond purchases to $75 billion from $85 billion. The purchases are intended to lower long-term interest rates and encourage more spending. The cut suggests that Fed policymakers think the job market and economy will continue to improve even with less help from the Fed.
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ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) --There are no government economic reports scheduled for release today but the Institute for Supply Management will put out its June service sector index.

Tomorrow, the Commerce Department will report international trade data for May and the Labor Department will release its job openings and labor turnover survey for May.

Also on Tuesday, the Federal Reserve will release consumer credit data for May.

GREECE-BAILOUT

ATHENS (AP) -- Greece's finance minister has resigned following Sunday's referendum in which the majority of voters said "no" to more austerity measures in exchange for another financial bailout.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis says he was told shortly after the Greek referendum result that the some eurozone finance ministers and Greece's other creditors would prefer he not attend the ministers' meetings.

Varoufakis has visibly annoyed many of the eurozone's finance ministers during Greece's debt negotiations.

CHINESE STOCK MARKET RESCUE

NEW YORK (AP) -- China has reportedly decided to bar new public offerings of stock and will create a fund to stabilize its stock market, which has been roiled by a wave of selloffs..

Twenty one Chinese securities companies, in a statement released Saturday, said they would pledge no less than 120 billion yuan ($19.33 billion) to invest in Chinese stocks. The securities companies also said they would continue to invest in the market as long the Shanghai Composite index remains below 4,500. It closed at 3,686 on Friday.

Chinese regulators have also decided to suspend new Chinese initial public offerings, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Chinese market has been in free-fall for three weeks, losing 28 percent of its value. Despite the plunge, the market is up 79 percent in the last year.

GERMANY-ECONOMY

BERLIN (AP) -- German factory orders dipped in May as orders from other countries in the eurozone slipped back following a large gain the previous month.

The Economy Ministry says orders in Europe's biggest economy were down 0.2 percent compared with the previous month. In April, orders rose 2.2 percent -- a figure that was revised up sharply from the initial reading of 1.4 percent because of late reporting.

The ministry says bulk orders were below average in May. The overall fall was led by a 1.5 percent drop in orders from other countries in the 19-nation eurozone, which had surged 7 percent in April.

Demand from inside Germany was off 0.6 percent while orders from outside the eurozone climbed 1.2 percent.

STELLA & CHEWY'S-RECALL

Pet food maker Stella & Chewy's recalls some products

NEW YORK (AP) -- Pet food maker Stella & Chewy's is recalling some of its products because a routine test found Listeria in a sample of its chicken freeze-dried dinner patties for dogs.

Listeria can cause serious illness and even death in children, the frail and the elderly. Healthy people may suffer flu-like symptoms, such as high fever, headache, nausea and diarrhea.

The Milwaukee-based company said there have been no reported pet or human illnesses.

A complete list of recalled products can be found at: http://www.stellaandchewys.com/stella-chewys-recall-notice/

Consumers can look at the lot numbers and UPC codes on their pet food to determine if their pet food is part of the recall. If they do have pet food that is part of the recall they can return it to the place of purchase for a full refund or should dispose of it.

GOODBYE TRADING PITS

No more `roar' as famed trading pits come to an end

In those pits, traders yelled and shoved and flashed hand signals, just as they did in the movie "Trading Places."

But faster, cheaper and not nearly as noisy computers have taken over.

BOX OFFICE

NEW YORK (AP) -- "Magic Mike XXL" and "Terminator Genisys" both fizzled over the July 4th weekend, leaving the popular holdovers "Jurassic World" and "Inside Out" to top the holiday box office.

Despite the release of the anticipated sequels, the rule of "Jurassic World" continued with an estimated $30.9 million in its fourth week of release. Pixar's "Inside Out," though, virtually tied it with $30.1 million in its third week. Final figures will be released Monday.

"Terminator Genisys," the fifth entry in the sci-fi series, opened in third with $28.7 million over the weekend and $44.2 million since opening Wednesday.

The male-stripper sequel "Magic Mike XXL," starring Channing Tatum, came in fourth with just $12 million on the weekend. Over five days of release, it made $27.1 million.

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