U.S. President Barack Obama nominated two people Thursday to head agencies charged with protecting investors.
He asked former prosecutor Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, and put Richard Cordray forward for a full term as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The SEC has been undergoing reforms intended to prevent the risky investment practices involved in the financial crisis. White has handled complex securities fraud issues and cases against gangsters and terrorists.
Cordray's agency oversees financial products like credit cards and mortgages sold to consumers. Obama called him a "champion" of the consumer and urged the Senate to confirm him quickly. A year ago, the president gave Cordray a temporary (recess) appointment to the job in the face of strong Republican opposition.
Earlier Thursday, a government report showed that the U.S. labor market is improving, as the number of Americans signing up for unemployment compensation fell to the lowest level in five years.
The Labor Department says first-time jobless claims fell by 5,000 last week to a nationwide total of 330,000. Falling unemployment claims show employers are laying off fewer workers, which could signal increased hiring in the future.
Labor market gains are one reason that the Conference Board's index of leading indicators rose in December. The study by a private research group is intended to predict the economic situation three to six months into the future.