World Bulletin / News Desk
The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits edged higher last week although a trend reading fell close to a four-year low, pointing to healing in the still-struggling labor market.
Other data on Thursday showed groundbreaking on new U.S. homes fell in July in a reminder of the housing market's weakness despite some recent signs of recovery.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000, the Labor Department said. That was in line with economists' forecasts in a Reuters poll.
Claims data, which swung wildly in July due to shifts in seasonal auto plant shutdowns, are now giving a clearer picture of modest improvement in the labor market.
The data reinforces the view that economic growth could pick up in the second half of the year. But even then, the recovery is seen to be lackluster and perhaps in need of more support from the Federal Reserve.
"Overall, they (the data) are consistent with our outlook that growth will be a little bit better in the U.S. but not as upbeat as some people think," said Brian Kim, a currency strategist at RBS Securities inStamford, Connecticut.
"We're still looking at possible Fed action in September and these numbers don't really alter that view."
The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, dropped 5,500 to 363,750. That was the lowest since March - and the second lowest since April 2008.
U.S. nonfarm payrolls increased 163,000 in July after three months of gains below 100,000, although the unemployment rate ticked higher to 8.3 percent.
The pickup in hiring last month, along with gains in retail sales and manufacturing output, has dampened expectations the Fed could announce at its next meeting a plan to stimulate the economy with a third round of bond purchases. Officials at the Fed next review policy on Sept. 12-13.
U.S. stock index futures held onto earlier gains following the data.
The U.S. economy still faces a number of threats, including the looming possibility the government will raise taxes and cut spending next year. That is already hurting business sentiment.
Europe's festering debt crisis also menaces and is weighing on the global economy. China's Commerce Ministry said on Thursday the outlook for its exports has darkened.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc forecast full-year earnings that could fall short of Wall Street expectations as growth in international markets slows, even as its U.S. discount stores saw improved sales in a tepid U.S. economy.
Another report due on Thursday is expected to show factory activity contracted in the mid-Atlantic region for the fourth straight month in August.
That would be the second regional manufacturing report to show contraction during the month. On Wednesday, the New York Federal Reserve bank said factory activity slipped this month for the first time since October 2011.
In another somewhat downbeat sign, the Commerce Department said housing starts dropped 1.1 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 746,000 units.
The reading was below the median forecast in a Reuters poll of a 757,000-unit rate.
The government also revised lower its estimates for starts in recent months. But economists said the readings, which are prone to significant revisions, still pointed to healing in the housing market.
"This is nothing but normal statistical noise," said Stephen Stanley, an economist at Pierpont Securities in Stamford, Connecticut.
The U.S. housing market, which fell into a deep rut six years ago, has been a relative bright spot in the economy this year.
Home prices have shown signs of stabilizing and many economists think housing construction will give a small boost to the economy this year.
There were also some positive signals in Thursday's report. New permits for building homes rose 6.8 percent in July to a 812,000 unit pace, the highest rate since August 2008.
But outside of housing, the broader economy has looked wobbly this year, which could hold back gains in home building.
The move away from the U.S. dollar is yet another reaction to Western sanctions placed on Russia since it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March.
Norwegian oil company Statoil and Shell won an exploration license in the southeastern part of Algeria.
Under EU rules, if the Commission's suspicion that the tax treatment amounted to illegal state aid is proven, the company could be forced to pay that money back to the Irish government.
The court ordered searches of all known offices and residences of the former first lady and Congresswoman Imelda Marcos in Manila and Ilocos Norte in a bid to recover the works of art.
British energy expert Nick Butler said Israel should use its gas reserves domestically as it cannot compete with other markets.
After several rounds of talks brokered by the European Union, Moscow and Kiev reported progress at a meeting last week in Berlin.
The company's stock price has regained some of its recent losses but a European Union investigation could spell trouble for the tech giant.
U.S. planes are flying about 60 reconnaissance sorties per day, and some 1,600 U.S. troops are being deployed in Iraq.
"There are good reasons to continue the energy partnership with Russia," she said and noted that within the European Union different countries had different levels of dependency on supplies
Osborne said he would clamp down on technology companies which "go to extraordinary lengths to pay little or no tax here" as part of his plans to fix the budget shortfall.
Union wants Lufthansa to maintain a scheme that allows pilots to retire early at the age of 55 and still receive up to 60 percent of their pay
The pilots decided to end the strike without reaching an agreement with the French airline even though talks resumed
Ozkan Yorgancioglu, prime minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, said Israel's gas should be sent to Europe via Turkey and Cyprus
Rosneft and U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil have found huge oil reserves in the Kara Sea region
Cy Tokmakjian sentenced to 15 years in prison for bribery and other economic charges in a case his company
Exxon and Rosneft signed a $3.2 billion agreement in 2011 to develop the region.