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Initial jobless claims fall for 2d straight week

First-time claims for unemployment compensation were 366,000 for the latest week.

Statistics involving the U.S. economy have generally painted a brighter picture lately, and Thursday's report on weekly jobless claims uses the same palette.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said initial claims for the week ended Dec. 10 were 366,000, down 19,000 from the previous week's revised stat. A better gauge is the four-week moving average, which was 387,750.

With both national figures below 400,000 as the year comes to a close, might we hope for a 2012 job market that begins to lower the unemployment rate? It can't hurt, but many of the forecasters see the unemployment rate winding up 2012 about where it was in November --at 8.6 percent.

Still, it's a good number to start the day with readings on manufacturing to come from the regional Federal Reserve banks in Philadelphia and New York later this morning.

In news involving local companies, pharmacy chain Rite Aid continues to lose money, although it trimmed its third-quarter loss. The Camp Hill company lost $54.5 million, or 6 cents per share, vs. $81.5 million, or 9 cents per share, for the same quarter in 2010. Here's AP's take.

And it's amazing what a new label can do for a product, especially when it involves a prescription drug. The Food and Drug Administration approved a new label for Exton-based ViroPharma's antibiotic Vancocin. That prompted ViroPharma shares to soar near 18 percent Wednesday, or $4.21, to close at $27.80.

Lest you think that to be an overreaction, consider that ViroPharma management believes the new label will keep generic competition away from Vancocin, a treatment for the infection known as C. diff., for three more years.

The approval had analysts who follow the stock raising their price targets from the high $20-range into the mid-$30s.