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Morning Market Roundup: News Corp Split, Unemployment Dips, Sony's New President


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

Unemployment: The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week, but the level of applications remains too high to signal a pickup in hiring.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications fell to a seasonally adjusted 386,000. That's down from 392,000 the previous week, which was revised up. The four-week average, which smooths week-to-week fluctuations, was mostly unchanged at 386,750.

Employers added an average of only 73,000 jobs per month in April and May. That's much lower than the average of 226,000 added in the first three months of this year.

Other recent indicators have painted a mixed picture of the economy.

News Corp: Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. said Thursday that plans to split into two separate companies, one holding its newspaper business and another its entertainment operations.

Under the proposal, the global media conglomerate will be divided into two publicly traded companies. One entity will operate as a newspaper and book publishing firm. The other will be an entertainment company that includes the 20th Century Fox movie studio, the Fox broadcast TV network and the Fox News channel.

The publishing side is expected to be much smaller, with some analysts valuing it at about $5 billion, compared with the current market value for News Corp. as a whole of about $54 billion.

Sony: Sony has lost money for eight straight years in its TV business. Sony's glamour image is fading next to Apple Inc.'s iPod, iPhone and iPad, now bigger hits not only globally but also in Sony's Japanese home market, displaying the kind of ingenuity that was once prized as Sony's.

"We take the problem Sony's electronics business is facing very seriously, and we feel a sense of crisis," said Kazuo Hirai, the former head of Sony's game division who has taken over as CEO and president from Howard Stringer.

Hirai is promising to focus on image technology exemplified in sensors, broadcasting equipment and digital cameras to bring back Sony, but it faces competition from Samsung there as well. He is also banking on games, the sector he knows best, having led Sony's U.S. game operations since 2006.

He also departed from the line of his predecessors and didn't stress Sony's prowess in TVs. He only promised to stop the red ink.

Under Hirai, Sony has ended its joint venture in liquid crystal displays for TVs with Samsung to boost profitability. Sony fell behind in flat panel TVs and invested in a Samsung panel factory in 2004, to ensure a steady supply for LCD TVs.

U.S. Futures: Stock futures are sliding ahead of a new report that is expected show meager U.S. economic growth at the same time that doubts are growing over Europe's ability to contain its debt crisis.

Dow Jones industrial average futures are down 72 points to 12,481. Standard & Poor's 500 futures are down 7.7 points to 1,317.80 and Nasdaq futures gave up 13 points to 2,544.75.

The U.S. Commerce Department releases the third and final estimate for first-quarter growth Thursday. Economists are not expected to change their previous estimates of 1.9 percent growth.

European leaders are gathering in Brussels trying to figure a way out of the continent's vicious debt cycle, but hopes for a panacea are weakening with little consensus.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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