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Morning Market Roundup: Jobless Claims Up, Greece Back in Spotlight, United Raises Airfare


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

Jobless Claims: The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose last week by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 365,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell for the sixth straight week to 365,500, the lowest since March 31.

A Labor Department spokesman said the latest figures should be the last affected by the auto shutdown issues. Still, the economy just isn't growing fast enough to lower the unemployment rate.

Growth slowed to an annual rate of just 1.5 percent from April through June, down from a 2 percent rate in the first quarter and a 4.1 percent rate in the fourth quarter of 2011.

The Federal Reserve cited the slowdown in growth after its two-day policy meeting, which concluded Wednesday. While the Fed took no new action at the meeting, it appeared to signal a growing inclination to take further steps to lift the economy out of its slump.

Greece: Greece's coalition government has resumed austerity negotiations with international debt inspectors, after narrowly avoiding a political crisis that officials said had threatened the country's future in the eurozone.

Inspectors from the European Union, European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund held talks Thursday at the Finance Ministry on the (EURO)11.5 billion (14.1 billion) austerity package for 2013-14 that is due to be finalized later this month.

Leaders of three parties in the six-week-old coalition on Wednesday dodged a political crisis by agreeing to not delay any of the proposed cuts. Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said the agreement to make the cuts up front was a "necessary condition" for Greece to remain in the euro.

Markets vs. ECB: Financial markets were in a tentative mood Thursday as investors waited to hear what the European Central Bank plans to do to get on top of the continent's crippling debt crisis.

Hopes that the ECB will back new measures were stoked a week ago when ECB chief Mario Draghi vowed to do what it takes to keep save the euro. Many expect the bank at the very least to resume its bond-buying program to keep a lid on Spain's and Italy's borrowing costs.

Draghi's comments sparked a bout of euphoria in the markets, particularly in the bond markets of Spain and Italy. Both saw their borrowing rates fall to more manageable levels. The interest rate, or yield, on Spain's 10-year bonds is at 6.66 percent - below the 7 per cent level that many market-watchers consider is unsustainable in the long term.

United: For the second time in less than two weeks, major U.S. airlines are raising fares. United Airlines confirmed Thursday that it increased prices on many U.S. flights by $10 per round trip.

J.P. Morgan airline analyst Jamie Baker says, however, that he'll be surprised if Southwest follows suit, coming only two weeks after airlines raised base fares by $4 to $10 per round-trip ticket.

If discount airlines such as Southwest refuse to go along, United could be forced to retreat.

Also, airlines often undercut price increases by running fare sales. For example, Delta boasted about weekly specials in an e-mail to customers on Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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