___Fed open to linking rate hike to economic gauge WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The Federal Reserve wants to find a clearer way to signal to the public when it might start raising interest rates. The Fed has told investors that it plans to keep short-term rates low for at least another three years. But it appears to be leaning toward setting a more specific target, according to minutes from the Fed's last policy meeting. Most members agreed at the Sept. 12-13 meeting that linking a future rate increase to a level of unemployment or some other numeric target could be useful. The minutes show members have yet to agree on what the economic target should be. The discussion signals another option the Fed might pursue if its latest stimulus efforts don't do enough to boost the still-weak economy. ___ US unemployment aid applications rise to 367,000 WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose to a seasonally adjusted 367,000, a level consistent with only modest hiring. Weekly applications increased last week by 4,000 from the previous week's level of 363,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The previous week was revised higher from an initial reading of 359,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, was unchanged at 375,000. Unemployment benefit applications are a measure of the pace of layoffs. When they consistently fall below 375,000, it typically indicates that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate. ___ US factory orders fall on decline in aircraft WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Orders to U.S. factories fell in August from July, mostly because of a sharp drop in volatile aircraft orders. The decline offset an increase in orders that reflect corporate investment plans. The Commerce Department said Thursday that factory orders dropped 5.2 percent in August, the biggest decline in more than three years. The loss was largely because demand for commercial aircraft plunged 102 percent. That pulled down orders for long-lasting manufactured goods by 13.2 percent.