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.
Doctors, teachers and school guards joined the 24-hour strike and planned marches to parliament, the focal point of anti-austerity protests
10.14 billion yuan ($1.65 billion) in "dirty money" and property was recovered and 762 corruption suspects were captured at home or abroad last year, the China Daily said
Federal investigators are reviewing information about how GM handled reports of problems with ignition switches that first came to light 10 years ago
Allegations of possible manipulation of the $5.3 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market have so far centered on major banks.
The decision will remove duties on agricultural products, processed foods, textiles and industrial goods, saving Ukrainian businesses 487 million euros a year.
Chrystalla Georghadji takes up her post on April 11, after outgoing governor Panicos Demetriades works out his notice.
The wording on energy dependency was not in an earlier version of the document circulated before Russian forces seized Crimea
India, with the increases already made in the January-March loading plans from Iran, has to cut its purchases of the crude
Eurozone finance ministers give green light to release 150 million euros for the Greek Cypriot administration.
"Sugar consumption that dated back to the BC epoch found its way into Ethiopian households only lately; people had to be convinced," Zemedkun Tekle, communications director at the state-run Ethiopian Sugar Corporation, said.
The agreement is the first Canada has concluded with a nation from Asia, a fast-growing part of the world that Ottawa is deliberately targeting.
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Pakistan will give India Most Favored Nation status by the end of March.
"Germany's dependence on Russian gas may effectively decrease Europe's sovereignty. I have no doubts about that," Polish PM Tusk said
EU member Bulgaria has started preliminary works on the pipeline on its territory, but has repeatedly said its operation should be in line with EU rules