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Jobless Claims Increase

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WASHINGTON (7/12/13)--Initial claims for U.S. unemployment benefits--a proxy for layoffs--jumped 16,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday.
 
The gain in first-time claims, which total a seasonally adjusted 360,000 for the week ended July 6--is at a level that still indicates job growth. It also suggests that the checkered nature of the labor market's recovery shows it remains in the healing process (The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Bloomberg.com and Moody's economy.com July 11).
 
Claims typically are volatile the first two weeks of July, stemming from temporary closures of plants in auto manufacturing and other industries, and the July 4 holiday usually distorts unemployment readings, the Journal said.
 
Auto-plant shutdowns skew the July claims numbers, concurred Brian Jones, senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York. The labor market is making consistent progress and the hiring pace is decent, he told Bloomberg.  
 
The four-week moving average of claims--which smooths out weekly volatility--rose 6,000--to 351,750 last week from the prior week's 345,750.
 
Continuing claims for unemployment benefits increased 24,000--to nearly 2.98 million--for the week ended June 29.

New Zealand Bank Ties Mortgage Rates To Facebook 'Lottery'

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WELLINGTON, N.Z. (7/12/13)--In a new approach using social media, one of New Zealand's largest banks has turned its mortgage rates into a social media lottery.

Every Wednesday for four weeks, ASB's "Like Loan" promotion will provide its Facebook users a chance to win a reduced fixed-rate home loan. The rate is based on the number of Facebook "Likes" the promotional app accumulates for the day (FinancialBrand.com July 1).

Before launching the promotion, ASB's Facebook page had 66,970 "Likes." After the launch, it added 6,000 more--a 9% increase.  The response helped drive down the first week's Like Loan rate to 2.4732%, compared with its 5.19% advertised rate for that type of loan.

The promotion created a lot of buzz, with 6,387 users talking about it. On the first day of the promotion, more than 800 of its Facebook users shared the app with friends.