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U.S. retail sales soar in November

U.S. retail sales increased more than expected in November as the holiday shopping season got off to a brisk start, pointing to sustained strength in the economy that could pave the way for further Federal Reserve interest rate hikes next year.

The economic outlook was also bolstered by other data Thursday showing the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits dropping to near a 441/2-year low.

In a separate report, the Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 225,000 for the week ended Dec. 9.

That was the lowest reading since mid-October, when claims dropped to 223,000, a level not seen since March 1973.

Last week marked the 145th straight week that claims remained below 300,000, the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller.

The economy added 228,000 jobs in November.

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