Stocks have seen a steadier showing a day after the Dow lost nearly 400 points. Some positive news on new unemployment claims and the latest developments in Europe have given investors a bit of reassurance.
- The Labor Department says the number of new claims for jobless benefits last week dropped to 390,000, the fewest since April. Also, there was word the nation's trade deficit slipped to the lowest point of the year in September.
- Drugmaker Merck says it has revamped research operations to make them more productive, while also starting a new four-pronged business strategy to increase revenue and profit. Merck also announced it will boost its quarterly dividend by 4 cents to 42 cents per share this quarter. The shares were up 3 percent at midday.
- Jefferson County Alabama, the state's most populous county has filed what became the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. It is an effort to retake control of its beleaguered sewer system and wipe away as much of its $4 billion in debt as possible.
- Russia has cleared a major hurdle toward opening up its huge oil-driven economy, with negotiators agreeing to final terms that would allow it to join the World Trade Organization after an 18-year effort. The deal is expected to quickly inject more than $5 billion a year into the ailing European economy by boosting the continent's exports.
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