Applications for jobless aid rise slightly

More people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, but the levels remain near historic lows that point toward a healthy job market. Weekly applications for jobless benefits rose 9,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 269,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, ticked down to 269,250, not far off from the recent low of 259,250 achieved at the end of October. Weekly filings have stayed below the key threshold of 300,000 since late March, which is usually associated with net monthly job gains in excess of 200,000. The number of people collecting benefits has fallen 9.3 percent from a year ago to 2.2 million.

U.S. factory orders end streak of declines

U.S. factory orders rebounded in October after two prior monthly declines, helped by rising demand for aircraft, computers and machinery. Factory orders rose 1.5 percent in October, the Commerce Department said Thursday. This follows monthly declines of 0.8 percent in September and 2.1 percent in August. Factory orders have tumbled 7.1 percent year-to-date. Manufacturers have struggled to adjust to a stronger dollar hurting exports, lower oil prices and weak global economic growth. But they were helped in October as orders in the volatile aircraft category climbed 81 percent. Orders for computers and electronics advanced 1.9 percent. Machinery orders improved 1.2 percent.

Agency: More mercury monitoring needed

The U.S. and Canada should more closely monitor atmospheric pollution from as far away as Asia that may be causing mercury levels to rise in some Great Lakes fish, an advisory agency said Thursday. Many of the stations that once monitored the mercury content of rain and snow in the region are no longer operating, according to a report by the International Joint Commission, which recommends policies to both nations' governments on their shared waterways. It calls for the U.S. to spend $250,000 a year on a network of 21 stations across the eight states that border the Great Lakes. It says Canada also should contribute funding for stations in the province of Ontario, but it doesn't recommend specific numbers.

Fiat Chrysler issues recall for Dodge Darts

Fiat Chrysler is recalling more than 121,600 Dodge Dart small cars worldwide because of a defect that could affect their brake systems. The recall affects 2013 and 2014 model year Darts with 2-liter and 2.4-liter engines. FCA says it's aware of two minor injuries and seven accidents possibly related to the defect. It will contact owners and dealers will fix the cars for free. FCA says oil can get on parts of the braking system. If the oil degrades those parts, the brakes could be more difficult to use. It could also take drivers longer to stop their cars. The recall affects 105,458 Darts in the U.S., 11,996 in Canada and 4,149 in Mexico and elsewhere.

Sears narrows loss, but sales still slump

The parent of struggling retailers Sears and Kmart reported third-quarter 2015 results Thursday that showed it narrowing its losses despite a nearly 20 percent drop in sales. Sears' loss narrowed to $454 million from $548 million a year ago. The Chicago-area company lost $4.26 per share, compared with $5.15 per share. At the same time, sales continued their downward slide, dropping more than 19 percent to $5.7 billion from $7.2 billion at the same time last year. Sears' third-quarter sales just beat Wall Street's bet of $5.5 billion.

NEWS SERVICES