U.S. employment ducks Superstorm Sandy’s punch

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – U.S. companies kept up their slow but steady hiring pace in November, defying predictions that Superstorm Sandy would deal a big blow to the labor market.

While the unemployment rate fell to a near four-year low of 7.7 percent, that was only because many Americans gave up the hunt for work, tempering the signal from the stronger-than-expected payrolls growth.

A big drop in consumer confidence in December, the largest fall in more than 1-1/2 years, also offered a cautionary note on the economy’s health.

Non-farm employment expanded by 146,000 jobs last month after gaining 138,000 in October, the Labor Department said on Friday. The increase was well above the 93,000 expected on Wall Street.

“We are moving in a trend-like modest job-growth environment,” said Michael Hanson, a senior economist at Bank of Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York. “We really need to see payroll numbers break above 200,000 for a while to think we have a more sustained recovery under way.”

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Government shutdown fizzles on spending, immigration deal in U.S. Congress

WASHINGTON,  (Reuters) – Congress voted yesterday to end a three-day U.S. government shutdown, approving another short-term funding bill as Democrats accepted promises from Republicans for a broad debate later on the future of young illegal immigrants.

Turkey expects swift campaign against U.S.-backed Kurds in Syria

HASSA, Turkey, (Reuters) – Turkey shelled targets in northwest Syria yesterday and said it would swiftly crush U.S.-backed Kurdish YPG fighters in an air and ground offensive on the Afrin region beyond its border.

Maldives ex-leader claims Chinese land grabbing; govt denies

COLOMBO, (Reuters) – Exiled former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, who is fighting for the right to contest a presidential poll this year, said yesterday that land grabbing by China was threatening peace and stability in the Indian Ocean.

EU confirms new sanctions on seven senior Venezuela officials

BRUSSELS/CARACAS, (Reuters) – The European Union on Monday announced new sanctions on seven senior Venezuelan officials, saying this was an expression of the bloc’s concern with the political crisis under President Nicolas Maduro.

China’s Xinjiang to build “Great Wall” to protect border – governor

BEIJING, (Reuters) – China’s violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang will build a “Great Wall” around its borders to prevent the infiltration of militants from outside the country, state media reported yesterday citing the regional governor.

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