AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
WASHINGTON: New claims for US unemployment benefits fell last week in a fresh sign that the ailing job market is slowly recovering, official data showed on Thursday. Initial jobless claims fell by 2,000 to 370,000 in the week ending May 19, the Labor Department said. The prior week’s number was revised upward by 2,000, leaving claims hovering in neutral, indicating a pause in layoffs. The latest numbers showed a faster improving situation. The four-week moving average was 370,000, down 5,500 claims from the previous week. The unemployment rate fell to 8.1 per cent in April as hundreds of thousands dropped out of the labour force, and only 115,000 jobs were created, the lowest number in six months. High unemployment is a key obstacle in the fragile US recovery, weighing on consumer spending that drives about 70 per cent of the nation’s economic growth.
France gets top rating
PARIS: International ratings agency Moody’s affirmed its top Aaa rating on France on Thursday but said it would watch closely the policies of new President Francois Hollande who favours growth above austerity. Moody’s said it maintained France’s top rating but kept the outlook at ‘Negative’, noting that while Hollande insists growth must come first, he has not made clear how he will implement his campaign pledges at a time of great eurozone strains. The agency, one of the top three world credit assessors, said among France’s strengths were a large, diversified economy; robust institutions and competent administration; strong social cohesion; sound and innovative debt management and important reforms, especially in the public sector and the pension system. On the negative side, the country faced high government expenditure; a relatively large government deficit and debt plus its exposure to potential new contingent liabilities arising from a further deterioration in the eurozone debt crisis. –– AFP
Oil rebounds $90
SINGAPORE: Oil rebounded in Asian trade on Thursday as investors bought into the market after prices fell below $90 a barrel the previous day, analysts said. New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for delivery in July was up by 64 cents to $90.54 per barrel while Brent North Sea crude for July gained 92 cents to $106.48 in morning trade. Prices had slumped a day earlier as the dollar rallied on eurozone debt worries, making dollar-denominated oil more expensive and denting demand. WTI crude fell to $89.90 on Wednesday, its lowest level since October, while Brent tumbled $2.85 to $105.56. “Prices have stopped sliding because some investors see this low level as a buy opportunity,” said Victor Shum, senior principal at Purvin and Gertz international energy consultants in Singapore.