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The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose sharply last week, reversing the prior three weeks declines, but a recent strengthening of the labor market likely remains intact. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits surged 68,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. A Labor Department analyst said no states had been estimated and there were no special factors influencing the report. The labor market is strengthening, with nonfarm payrolls increasing solidly in October and November.
U.S. retail sales rose solidly in November as Americans bought automobiles and a range of other goods, adding to signs of a strengthening economy that could draw the Federal Reserve closer to reducing the pace of monetary stimulus. The Commerce Department said on Thursday retail sales increased 0.7 percent last month after rising by a revised 0.6 percent in October. November's retail sales increase was the largest in five months. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales, which account for about 30 percent of consumer spending, advancing 0.6 percent after a previously reported 0.4 percent gain in October.