Jobless claims up amid show of volatility

WASHINGTON -- The number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week by the largest amount in three months. The surge is evidence of how volatile the job market remains, even as the economy grows.

Applications for unemployment benefits rose to 471,000 last week, up by 25,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

It was the first increase in five weeks and the biggest jump since a gain of 40,000 in February. The total was the highest since new claims reached 480,000 on April 10. It also pushed the average for the past four weeks to 453,500.

In a separate report, a private research group said its index of leading economic indicators dipped slightly in April.

It was the first decline in more than a year. Six of the 10 components on the Conference Board's index deteriorated.

Post-plunge, SEC to look at changes

WASHINGTON -- The Securities and Exchange Commission will propose new rules covering cancellation of trades in the wake of the May 6 stock market plunge, the agency's chairman told a Senate panel Thursday.

Nearly 21,000 trades were canceled because exchanges deemed them erroneous after the "flash crash," which sent the Dow Jones industrial average down nearly 1,000 points in less than 30 minutes.

Many retail investors were affected, and senators pressed at the hearing for remedies.

Schapiro said the agency is examining whether decisions to cancel trades were made fairly and if market professionals fully met their legal obligations to investors.

Sears' income falls on appliance deals

NEW YORK -- Heavy discounts on appliances squeezed Sears Holdings Corp. in the first quarter even as a key measure of revenue rose, bolstered by federal rebates for those same appliances.

Sears' shares fell almost 11 percent, or $10.86, to close Thursday at $88.70. The drop was the sharpest of any stock in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index on a day when just three stocks rose.

The company's falling net income stood out among the batch of recent earnings reports from major retailers.

Home-improvement rivals Lowe's Cos. and Home Depot Inc. said their net income and total revenue rose as consumers spent not only on appliances but on home renovations and seasonal goods like patio furniture.

Dell's profit jumps 52% in 1st quarter

SEATTLE -- Computer maker Dell Inc. said Thursday its first-quarter net income rose 52 percent, helped by sales of computers to businesses and technology services to public-sector customers.

But Dell's gross profit margin dropped from a year ago, and the company said certain PC components are likely to remain in short supply. Investors sent shares down sharply in extended trading.

Dell said that from February through April, it earned $441 million, or 22 cents per share. In the same period a year ago it earned $290 million, or 15 cents per share.