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Applications for unemployment benefits reflect the pace of layoffs. They have risen slightly over the past three weeks, though they remain lower than in spring, when hiring nearly stalled. Last week's number was revised upward to 374,000 from the 372,000 reported initially.

Still, when applications fall consistently below 375,000, it generally indicates that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

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Amazon Kindle Fire sold out as new model expected

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Amazon.com Inc. says it has sold out of its Kindle Fire tablet computer amid expectations of a new model for the holiday season.

The Internet retailer has a major press conference scheduled for next Thursday. It's widely expected it will reveal a new model of the Fire then, so Thursday's announcement that the first model is "sold out" suggests that Amazon halted production a while ago to retool for a new model.

Amazon launched the $199 tablet last November. It was the first Kindle with a color screen and the ability to run third-party applications, placing it in competition with Apple Inc.'s iPad, at half the price of the cheapest iPad.

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Average rate on 30-year US mortgage falls to 3.59 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell this week and are just slightly above record lows reached earlier this year. The low rates have contributed to a modest housing recovery.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan declined to 3.59 percent, down from 3.66 percent last week. Five weeks ago, the rate fell to 3.49 percent, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, slipped to 2.86 percent. That's down from 2.89 percent last week and slightly above the record low of 2.80 percent set five weeks ago.

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