- - Thursday, August 4, 2011

UNEMPLOYMENT

Aid applications tick down to 400,000

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits dipped last week, a sign the job market may be improving slowly. Weekly applications for unemployment benefits edged down 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 400,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s the lowest level in four months. The previous week’s figure was revised upward from 398,000 to 401,000.

The four-week average, a less-volatile figure, dropped for the fifth straight week to 407,750. That suggests there is a downward trend in layoffs.

Unemployment benefit applications have been at or above 400,000 for 17 weeks. They fell in February to 375,000, a level that signals healthy job growth. They stayed below 400,000 for two months. But applications then surged to an eight-month high of 478,000 in April and have declined slowly since then.

LAWSUITS

Judge orders Mattel to pay $309M in Bratz spat

SANTA ANA, Calif. — A federal judge ordered toy giant Mattel Inc. to pay rival MGA Entertainment more than $309 million Thursday, marking another tumultuous chapter in the years-long legal fight between the two companies over ownership of the lucrative Bratz fashion doll line.

The upstart MGA has been involved in a legal battle with Mattel since 2004 over who owns the Bratz doll. The dolls with pouty lips, hip-hop-style clothing and oversized feet were aimed at “tweens,” or girls ages 9 to 11, and flew off the shelves when they debuted in 2001.

U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter reduced a previous jury award from more than $88 million to $85 million but then awarded Los Angeles-based MGA an additional $85 million in punitive damages for trade secrets misappropriation. He also awarded MGA and its Chief Executive Officer Isaac Larian $137 million in legal fees related to copyright and trade-secrets issues and more than $2 million in legal fees and related costs on the trade-secrets claims.

Mattel said in a statement that it was disappointed with the ruling and would “review the court’s ruling and evaluate next steps.” The El Segundo-based toy maker can appeal.

RETAIL

Report: Solid sales gains in July

NEW YORK — The back-to-school season got off to a strong start as discounts and high temperatures in July drove shoppers to air-conditioned malls. But merchants worry that momentum won’t continue through the remainder of the second-biggest shopping period of the year as the weather gets cold and the deals dry up.

Despite a flow of bad economic news that kept consumer confidence shaky, a number of retailers reported July revenue on Thursday that beat Wall Street estimates, including discounter Target, department store Macy’s, and luxury chain Saks. The International Council of Shopping Centers’ preliminary tally of retailers’ revenue at stores open at least a year — a key indicator of a merchant’s health — was up 4.6 percent, a slower pace than June’s 6.9 percent gain but in line with forecasts.

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