** Data shows fresh signs of improving economy **
Reuters: Fresh signs the U.S. economy has broken out of its summer soft patch emerged on Thursday as data showed a gauge of jobless benefits hit a new two-year low last week and pending home sales unexpectedly rose in October.
The picture also brightened as retailers recorded their best sales gains in four years in November….the reports were the latest to suggest a pick-up in activity in the fourth quarter.
“There seems to be no doubt that the economy is improving and likely to continue to improve,” said Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in North Carolina.
Initial claims for state unemployment aid increased 26,000 but a four-week moving average – a better gauge of underlying labor trends – fell to its lowest level since the week ending Aug 2, 2008.
The claims data has little bearing on Friday’s employment report for November as it falls outside the survey period.
Anecdotal evidence points to a firming labor market and the government is expected to report that nonfarm payrolls rose 140,000 last month after increasing 151,000 in October.