Jobless aid applications drop
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, the second-fewest in more than five years. The drop suggests that layoffs have declined and that job growth might pick up from last month’s sluggish pace.
Applications for benefits dropped 16,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average declined 4,500 to 357,500.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. When they decline, it signals that companies are cutting fewer jobs.
Britain avoids new recession
Britain dodged recession after official figures showed the economy grew in the first quarter — a better-than-expected result that offered a bit of breathing space to a government facing criticism for its tough austerity policies.
The Office for National Statistics said Thursday that the economy grew by 0.3 percent in the first quarter compared with the previous three-month period. Though anemic, the figure was above analyst expectations for 0.1 percent growth and allowed the country to avoid a so-called “Triple Dip” — a third recession since the 2008 economic crisis.
The pound jumped higher in currency markets on expectations that the figures will dissuade the Bank of England from increasing its monetary stimulus program. The pound was up 1.2 percent against the dollar, at $1.5445.
Glitch shuts down exchange
Trading on the biggest exchange for financial options resumed Thursday after an outage caused by software problems.
The Chicago Board Options Exchange reopened at 12:50 p.m. Eastern time after being closed from the start of the trading day. The shutdown forced traders to scramble for alternatives.
The outage followed a brief scare in financial markets Tuesday afternoon when hackers sent a false Associated Press tweet reporting explosions at the White House. Stocks plunged for two minutes as computerized trading systems unloaded stocks. Regulators are increasingly looking into the safety of computerized trading systems.
Initially, there was speculation that CBOE computers had been hacked, but exchange officials believe hackers were not involved.