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Jobless Claims Drop, Inflation At 3 Percent, Housing Starts Cool

A trio of economic indicators were just released:

-- First-time claims for jobless benefits plunged by 50,000 last week from the week before, to 352,000, the Employment and Training Administration says. You have to go back to Spring 2008 to find a lower number. Reuters says the news signals "continued improvement in the labor market."

-- Consumer prices finished 2011 up 3 percent from the year before, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's a faster pace than 2010's 1.5 percent and 2009's 2.7 percent. But prices were unchanged in December, vs. the month before.

-- While the number of "housing starts" in December was 4.1 percent below November's pace, they ended the year 24.9 percent up from 2010, the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development say.

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