US jobless claims down

<p> Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 20,000.</p>

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, new figures from the US Labor Department show.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 268,000 for the week ending March 28, the Labor Department said today (March 2nd). Claims for the prior week were revised to show 6,000 more applications received than previously reported.

The US Labor Department is also due to release jobless claims tomorrow. US employers probably hired fewer workers in March than the previous month, economists quoted by Bloomberg said before Friday’s payrolls report.

Interest rate hike debate
The job figures come after the publication of weak manufacturing data on Wednesday, renewing speculation about when the Fed will raise interest rates. While many analysts expect that interest rates will start rising as soon as June, the downbeat manufacturing data led some to believe this might happen later in the year.

However, a few days ago, the Fed modified its stance on interest rates, dropping its "patient" language from the policy statement, and trimmed its growth and inflation forecasts.

US consumer prices rebounded last month as petrol prices rose for the first time since June last year, according to new figures, which weighed in favour of an early interest rate hike.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 0.2 per cent in February, but remained unchanged from a year earlier, the Department of Labor said. The monthly rise follows three consecutive months of declines, including a 0.7 per cent drop in January, partly due to a drop in oil prices. US Fed Chair Janet Yellen previously said that the decision to raise interest rates would be data dependent.

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