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Business Highlights

The world's biggest hamburger chain said Thursday that a key sales figure fell for the first time in nearly a decade in October, as it faced the double whammy of a challenging economy abroad and intensifying competition at home. The company, based in Oak Brook, Ill., says global revenue at restaurants open at least 13 months fell 1.8 percent for the month. The last time it dropped was in March 2003.

The figure is a key metric because it strips out the impact of newly opened and closed locations. It's a snapshot of money spent on food at both company owned and franchised restaurants and does not reflect corporate revenue.

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Weekly US jobless claims fell to 355,000 last week

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 355,000, a possible sign of a healing job market. But officials cautioned that the figures were distorted by Superstorm Sandy, which likely delayed some claims.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, rose by 3,250 to 370,500.

The storm could affect weekly applications for up to four weeks, a Labor spokesman said.

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US trade deficit narrows to $41.5 billion

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The U.S. trade deficit declined to the lowest level in nearly two years as exports rose to a record high. The gain may not last given the global economic slowdown.

Still, the narrower trade deficit could lead the government to revise its July-September economic growth estimate slightly higher than the 2 percent annual rate reported last month. That's because U.S. companies earned more from overseas sales while consumers and businesses spent less on foreign products.

The deficit narrowed to $41.5 billion in September, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That is 5.1 percent below the August deficit and the smallest imbalance since December 2010.

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