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US Trade Gap Worsens; Job Market Improves

A flurry of new reports give a mixed assessment of the US economy Thursday.

The job market looks better, with the Labor Department reporting the biggest drop since 2001 in requests for first-time unemployment compensation. Its report shows the number of such initial claims falling 43,000 to 317,000 last week.

But that news was tempered by other reports.

The Commerce Department says the deficit in U.S. foreign trade and investment, called the current account, hit a record $165 billion between July and September. Many economists had predicted the gap between what Americans buy abroad and what they sell would be even worse.

Commerce also reported the number of new houses started in November dropped 13 percent, the sharpest decline in almost 11 years.

Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP, Reuters.