Unemployment benefits claims rise during week, data reveal
The number of newly laid-off workers seeking unemployment benefits rose last week, a sign that jobs remain scarce even as the economy recovers.
The increase also may result from the difficulty the Labor Department has in seasonally adjusting the claims around the Easter holiday, which falls on different weeks each year.
The Labor Department said Thursday that first-time claims increased by 18,000 in the week ended April 3, to a seasonally adjusted 460,000. That's worse than economists' estimates of a drop to 435,000, a survey by Thomson Reuters shows.
Initial claims have dropped four out of the past six weeks and many economists say they are likely to soon resume their decline.
"Not everything goes in a straight line," Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, wrote in a research note. "Definitely not the claims data."
The tally of people continuing to claim benefits fell by 131,000 to 4.55 million, the lowest level since December 2008. That figure lags initial claims by a week. But it doesn't include millions of people who have used up the regular 26 weeks of benefits typically provided by states, and are receiving extended benefits for up to 73 additional weeks, paid for by the federal government.
Slightly more than 5.8 million people were receiving extended benefits in the week ended March 20, the latest data available, a drop of about 230,000 from the previous week.
Retail sales increase for fourth straight month, top forecasts
Better weather and an earlier Easter enticed Americans to shell out for spring clothes in March, the fourth straight month of gains for retail sales. Target, Macy's, Gap and the parent of Victoria's Secret all beat Wall Street expectations.
The improvement was broad, spanning discounters, mass merchants, specialty stores and luxury retailers. The gains offer strong evidence that people are feeling more confident in the economic recovery and are more willing to spend.
Target Corp., Saks Inc. and Nordstrom Inc. said spring clothes sold well, particularly shoes and women's clothing. Overall, sales in stores open at least a year rose 9 percent in March, based on an index of 31 retailers compiled by the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Among individual retailers, top performers included Target Corp., where sales rose more than 10 percent at stores open at least a year, partly because clothing was selling well.
TJX Cos., which owns T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and other discount stores, said sales at stores open at least a year climbed 12 percent in March.
Geithner visits China, but currency policy doesn't change
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's surprise visit Thursday to China yielded no immediate change in China's currency policy. But analysts predicted the Obama administration's efforts to mend frayed relations will result in a currency change, possibly within weeks.
A move to let the yuan rise in value against the dollar would benefit U.S. exporters. The undervalued Chinese currency has made Chinese goods cheaper for American consumers. But it's hurt U.S. companies by making their products costlier in China.
Analysts cautioned, though, that any appreciation of the yuan will likely be gradual. They suggested that a rise in the yuan's value would be limited to 3 percent to 5 percent annually. That would be similar to the process China adopted in 2005, only to halt in 2008 as the global economic crisis deepened.
Operating system upgrade will let iPad, iPhone users multitask
Apple Inc.'s iPhones and iPads will soon be able to run more than one program at a time, an ability that phones from Apple's rivals already offer and that iPhone owners have long sought.
The changes, coming this summer to iPhones and this fall to iPads, mean that users might be able to listen to music using the Pandora program and check a bank account online simultaneously. Users must now return to Apple's home screen, effectively quitting the open program, before starting a new task.
The iPhone already permits some multitasking, but that's largely limited to Apple's own programs.
Apple hadn't given users ways to seamlessly switch among software "apps" available from outside software companies, the way phones from rivals Palm and Google do.
That will change with the updates known as iPhone OS 4. Apple generally makes such updates available for free, and often automatically, as a software download.
Former Treasury secretary scolded for Citigroup meltdown
Robert Rubin, the former U.S. Treasury secretary and financial superstar once lionized for his global crisis-fighting prowess, was scolded Thursday over the mortgage-securities disaster at Citigroup Inc. when he was a top executive there. His claim he didn't know of the risks piling up drew a sharp retort.
"You can't have it both ways: You either were pulling the levers or asleep at the switch," the head of the panel told Rubin at a hearing.
Rubin expressed regret. However, he insisted he didn't know until late in the game, when the subprime mortgage crisis erupted in September 2007, about the $43 billion in high-risk mortgage securities on Citigroup's books.
He said Citi trading-desk executives who built up that mountain thought, as many others on Wall Street did, that the triple-AAA rated securities were safe.
National electronics recycler opening processing center
A national electronics recycler is opening a processing center in Reno with as many as 60 employees.
Intechra officials cite Reno's "ideal logistics location" and Nevada's business-friendly climate as reasons for the move. The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada is projecting Intechra's new West Coast processing center to have an economic impact of $4.4 million in new jobs and tax revenue for the Reno area.
Intechra's recycling program helps reduce the amount of electronic or "e-waste" that reaches landfills nationwide.
The company works with companies and governments to recycle, repair and refurbish computers for resale.