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Morning Market Roundup: Oil up on Tel Aviv Bus Explosion, Japan's Trade Deficit Woes


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

Jobless Claims: The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week to a seasonally adjusted 410,000, The Labor Department reported on Wednesday.

The Labor Department said applications dropped by 41,000 from the previous week, when they were at an 18-month high. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose by 9,500 to 396,250.

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Deere & Co.: Farm and construction gear maker Deere & Co. reported a bigger fourth-quarter profit as it sold more equipment at higher prices, but results still missed analyst expectations.

Deere said its net income rose 2.7 percent to $687.6 million, or $1.75 per share for the quarter ended Oct. 31. Revenue rose 14 percent to $9.79 billion. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had been expecting earnings of $1.88 per share. A year ago, Deere's net income was $669.6 million, or $1.62 per share.

Deere revenue got a boost from a 4 percent increase in prices, although some of that gain was offset by unfavorable foreign currency exchange that hurt sales by 3 percent.

Equipment sales rose to $9.05 billion, topping analyst forecasts of $8.93 billion. Sales were strong in the U.S. and Canada, rising 26 percent for the quarter. Elsewhere, sales fell 2 percent.

Oil: The price of oil rebounded slightly to above $87 a barrel on Wednesday after an explosion injured 10 people on a bus in Tel Aviv, a development that has the potential to seriously complicate diplomatic efforts to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Islamic militant group Hamas.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for January delivery was up 68 cents to $87.42 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Tuesday, the contract fell $2.53 to finish at $86.75 on signs that a deal between the two warring sides might be close.

The possibility of a disruption in oil supplies when violence in the Middle East spikes often translates into higher crude prices, but ample inventories of crude and refined products as well as the European Union's delay in approving more bailout funds for Greece have kept a lid on prices.

Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, was up $1.02 to $110.85 a barrel in London.

Japan: Japan logged its fourth straight monthly trade deficit in October as the European debt crisis and strained business ties with China over a territorial dispute reduced exports.

The Ministry of Finance said Wednesday that imports exceeded exports by ¥549 billion ($6.7 billion), the biggest deficit for October since at least 1979, when the ministry began keeping comparable records.

Exports for the month fell 6.5 percent from a year earlier to ¥5.150 trillion ($62.9 billion), while imports slipped 1.6 percent to 5.699 trillion yen.

Japan has registered trade deficits every month except February and June.

UK Borrowing: The British government continued to borrow more than planned in October as corporation tax collections fell sharply in the wake of a nine-month recession, official figures showed Wednesday.

The Office for National Statistics said borrowing in October was £8.6 billion ($13.7 billion), up from £6 billion a year earlier. Corporation tax revenue was down 10 percent, a sign that businesses continue to struggle -- Britain only emerged from its latest recession in the third quarter of the year, with growth up a quarterly rate of 1 percent, largely on the back of a boost from the Olympic Games.

For the first six months of the fiscal year through October, the agency said the government's borrowing stood at £73.3 billion, £5 billion more than a year earlier. The increase comes despite a tough debt-reduction program which is the centerpiece of the government's economic strategy.

If that trend continues, full-year borrowing would be about £130 billion pounds ($207 billion), or 10 billion pounds above the government target.

Stock Futures: Stock futures are rising today’s jobs numbers and an aggressive outlook from Deere & Co., which reported its profit rose nearly 3 percent in the fourth quarter.

Dow Jones industrial futures are up 7 points to 12,766. The broader S&P futures have added 1.3 points to 1,387.60. Nasdaq futures are up 2.5 points to 2,596.25.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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