- - Thursday, November 10, 2011

FEDERAL RESERVE

Bernanke seeks to reassure veterans

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke on Thursday tried to reassure U.S. soldiers, a group hit hard by high unemployment, that the Fed is working to strengthen the economy.

In a speech at a military base in El Paso, Texas, Mr. Bernanke told the soldiers and their families that the Fed is trying to lower unemployment. He talked about the Fed’s policies of keeping short-term rates near zero and buying securities to try to lower longer-term rates, such as mortgages.

Many veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are returning home to find few jobs and limited prospects. The unemployment rate for veterans of those wars was 12.1 percent in October. That’s up from 10.6 percent a year ago and well above the national average of 9 percent.

“I’m here because the men and women in military service, like all Americans, are profoundly affected by the economic challenges our nation has faced these past several years,” Mr. Bernanke said during the speech at Fort Bliss, the country’s largest Army base.

The town hall meeting was the latest in a series of public outreach efforts that Mr. Bernanke has made to underscore the efforts the central bank is pursuing to help ordinary Americans cope with the Great Recession. In the past 2 1/2 years, Mr. Bernanke has attended half a dozen such informal gatherings.

ECONOMY

Unemployment aid hits 7-month low

The outlook for American jobs and trade looked a little brighter Thursday, despite growing uncertainty overseas.

The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week fell to a seasonally adjusted 390,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s the fewest since April.

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed to $43.1 billion in September, its lowest point of the year, the Commerce Department said. Foreign sales of American-made autos, airplanes and heavy machinery pushed exports to an all-time high.

The data suggest that layoffs are easing and that the economy grew slightly better over the summer than the government had estimated a month ago.

Stocks rose in afternoon trading, one day after the market tumbled because of concerns that Europe’s debt crisis could worsen.

TOYS

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