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Business

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Briefs

US jobless aid claims drop again

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell 10,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 311,000, the lowest since late November and a hopeful sign hiring could pick up.

The four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, fell 9,500 to 317,750, the Labor Department said Thursday. That is the fourth straight drop and the lowest level in six months.

The sustained decline suggests companies are confident enough about future growth to keep their staffs. Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Greater business confidence can also lead to more hiring.

The four-week average is now near its lowest level since October 2007, just two months before the recession began. It dropped to 305,000 in September, but only because computer glitches in California and other states artificially lowered the figures.

Samsung smartphone launch is upstaged

The global launch of Samsung’s latest smartphone has been upstaged by South Korean mobile network companies.

SK Telecom, South Korea’s largest mobile carrier, said it would start selling the Galaxy S5 on Thursday, two weeks before the scheduled sales launch on April 11.

Samsung said in a statement that it is “very puzzled” by SK Telecom’s decision and is deciding how to respond. It said its schedule of overseas launches remains unchanged.

Other mobile operators KT Corp. and LG Uplus Corp. are following SK Telecom’s move to release the phone early.

The unusual step comes as SK Telecom and other mobile carriers face a 45-day suspension from accepting new customers as a penalty for providing illegal phone subsidies.

Weight-loss drug pulled for safety

GlaxoSmithKline is recalling the weight-loss drug Alli after receiving reports of unknown pills and tablets in the bottles.

People in seven states have reported finding tablets and capsules of various shapes and colors in the bottles, the British drugmaker said Thursday. There are also reports that the tamper-resistant seals on some bottles are not authentic. Some bottles are missing their labels as well.

The drugmaker is still trying to determine what the foreign pills and tablets are.

GlaxoSmithKline has received information about 20 tampered Alli bottles so far, but no related reports of serious illnesses.

H&M profits rise 8% during in 1st quarter

Swedish fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB says its first-quarter profits rose by 8 percent, even though technology investments in its online business wiped out some of the gains.

H&M’s net profit rose to $412 million from a year earlier. Sales rose 13 percent as H&M added 60 new stores worldwide.

Its costs also rose, by 13 percent, as the retailer boosted spending on its online sales system.

Home contracts fall for an eighth month

The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes fell for the eighth straight month in February, a sign that real estate sales will likely slow over the next few months.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index dropped 0.8 percent to 93.9. The index has fallen 10.5 percent over the past 12 months.

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