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Updated: Oct 26 2012, 07:05am hrs
US unemployment aid applications fall

Weekly applications for US unemployment aid fell last week to a seasonally adjusted 369,000, a level consistent with modest hiring. The labour department said on Thursday that unemployment benefit applications dropped by 23,000, from a revised 392,000 the previous week. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose to 368,000. The figures appear to have stabilised after being distorted in the previous two weeks by seasonal adjustment problems. Applications are a proxy for layoffs. When they fall below 375,000, it suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate. Employers have added an average of nearly 150,000 jobs a month. Thats barely enough to lower the unemployment rate, which has declined from 8.3% to 7.8% this year.

Procter & Gamble profit tops estimates

Procter & Gamble, the worlds largest consumer-products maker, reported first-quarter profit that topped analysts estimates as it increased prices and reduced manufacturing costs. Net income slid 6.9% to $2.81 billion, or 96 cents a share, from $3.02 billion, or $1.03 a share, a year earlier, the company said on Thursday in a statement. Excluding some items, profit was $1.06 a share. The average of 18 analysts estimates compiled by Bloomberg was 96 cents. Sales fell 3.7% to $20.7 billion. CEO Bob McDonald is working to introduce new products and reduce costs after cutting the companys profit forecast three times in its previous fiscal.

Unilever sales spruced up by China demand

Unilevers quarterly sales growth beat forecasts as demand for cleaning and personal care products in China helped the consumer goods group outshine larger rival Nestle. Shares in the maker of Dove soap and Cif cleaners climbed on Thursday to equal their all-time high as the Anglo-Dutch group shrugged off the worries about slowing growth in China that have rattled a procession of consumer goods companies recently. It is probably our best quarter out of the last three quarters so it is really very, very good growth throughout our categories, finance chief Jean-Marc Huet said of the groups Chinese business, adding Russia was also growing strongly. Unilever posted underlying sales growth of 5.9% in the third quarter, ahead of a company-compiled consensus of 5% and a second-quarter rise of 5.8%. Emerging markets, which make up 55% of sales, grew 12.1%.

Strikes dent Hyundai Motors 3Q profit

Hyundai Motor suffered a fall in third-quarter profit from the previous quarter after strikes dented vehicle production, but its stock jumped Thursday after the carmaker said annual output would exceed forecasts. South Koreas largest automaker estimated that its global vehicle production in the final three months of this year would reach 1.2 million vehicles, including 540,000 vehicles at factories in South Korea. That would put annual production at 4.38 million vehicles for 2012, higher than its 4.29 million target. The increase covers a gap created after costly walkouts by workers at factories in South Korea reduced output over the summer. Shares of the maker of the Avante and Sonata closed 3.9% higher.

Portugal needs extra effort to reduce debt load: IMF

The International Monetary Fund says bailed-out Portugal must take more steps to reduce its debt load amid a continuing recession and growing unemployment. The government predicts an economic contraction of 1% in 2013 for a third straight year of recession. The jobless rate, currently at a record 15.9%, is seen climbing to 16.4%. The IMF said late Wednesday the governments debt-reducing measures have helped allay market concerns, while it has made good on promises of reforms in return for last years (euro) 78 billion ($100 billion) bailout. But it noted the economic reforms will take time to pay off and additional measures will be needed.