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US Economy Shows New Signs of Health

The U.S. economy continued to show improvement Thursday, with claims for jobless benefits declining and the key Dow Jones stock index closing on its longest winning streak in more than 15 years.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose for a 10th straight day, gaining nearly 84 points to close at 14,539. The last time the Dow made straight days of gains was back in November 1996.

The stock news came as new claims for jobless benefits fell again last week to the lowest level in five years. The U.S. Labor Department said 332,000 unemployed workers made initial claims for assistance last week, down 10,000 from the week before. That pushed the four-week average below 347,000 -- the lowest level since the early stages of the 2008 meltdown -- the country's worst economic downturn since the 1930s.

Economists say that declining jobless claims are a reflection of fewer worker layoffs, which are down 13 percent since November.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has ordered banking giants JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs to submit new plans that will address what regulators say are weaknesses in their planning for severe recessions.



The Fed gave the banks until September to redraw plans for future dividend increases -- the quarterly payout banks give to shareholders. It also asked the banks for new plans for setting rates for buying back their own shares.

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