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Morning Market Roundup: Ford Recall, Trade Gap Widens, Bernanke & Lending

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Here’s what’s important in the business world this morning:

Ford: Ford has added 32,400 Windstars to two safety recalls involving parts under the minivans that can rust and break.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says on its website that Ford will recall 23,000 Windstars from Virginia to fix parts near the front wheels that can break and cause drivers to lose steering control.

Ford also is recalling 9,400 Windstars in Puerto Rico because the rear axles can crack and break under heavy loads.

U.S. Trade: The U.S. trade deficit rose in March at the fastest rate in 10 months. A rise in consumer goods lifted imports to a record level, outpacing a solid gain in U.S. exports.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that the trade gap widened to $51.8 billion in March, up from $45.4 billion in February. Imports rose 5.2 percent to a record $238.6 billion, reflecting more foreign oil, autos, cell phones and clothes.

Exports increased nearly 3 percent to $186.8 billion. Sales to Europe reached an all-time high despite the region's debt crisis.

Ben Bernanke: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says that many businesses and consumers are finding it easier to borrow as banks shore up their balance sheets.

But he says many creditworthy borrowers are finding it difficult to get mortgage loans. He says small businesses that have used their homes as collateral for loans also face "challenging" conditions.

In response to criticism that regulators have made it difficult to lend, Bernanke says the Fed is taking a "balanced approach" in supervising banks.

Bernanke says that banks have made "considerable progress" in shedding risk from balance sheets and building cash cushions against future loan losses. He says cash and securities holdings at large banks have doubled since 2009.

Bernanke's comments were prepared for delivery at a banking conference Thursday in Chicago.

U.S. Unemployment: The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits ticked down last week.

Weekly applications dropped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000 in the week ending May 5, the Labor Department said Thursday. The previous week's figure was revised up slightly.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell by 5,250 to 379,000. It was the first decline since late March.

Markets: U.S. stocks are higher at the opening bell after the government said weekly jobless claims edged downward last week.

The lower jobless number suggests that employers may accelerate hiring this month.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 65 points to 12,900 shortly after the opening bell Thursday. The Standard & Poor's 500 gained almost 11 points to 1,365.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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