Belfast Telegraph

US boosted by jobless figures fall

Fewer Americans than expected sought unemployment benefits and consumer confidence climbed last week, boosting the world's largest economy heading into 2012.

Unemployment claims fell by 4,000 to 364,000 last week, the lowest level since April 2008, Labor Department figures showed yesterday.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index improved to minus 45 last week from a reading of minus 49.9 the prior week, marking the biggest seven-day gain since January.

A decline in job losses and the cheapest petrol prices since February are helping revive retail sales during the busiest shopping season of the year.

A stronger consumer, whose spending accounts for 70% of the economy, raises the odds the US can ride out the debt crisis in Europe or failure by Congress to extend tax cuts.

"Spending has looked pretty good so far, and continued job and income growth will help maintain that," said Samuel Coffin, an economist at UBS Securities in New York.

Stocks rose on the improving jobs outlook, sending the Standard -amp; Poor's 500 Index higher for a third day.

Treasury securities (bonds) also advanced, sending the yield on the benchmark 10-year note down to 1.96% from 1.97% at the close to trade the previous day.

"This is great news," Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at hedge fund High Frequency Economics.

"One unexpectedly low number can easily be a fluke. Two are interesting. Three are telling us something real is happening in the labour market."