WASHINGTON – Initial U.S. jobless claims are expected to creep up to 340,000 in the week ended March 16 from 332,00, according to economists polled by MarketWatch. The claims report - a rough gauge of layoffs - will be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern by the Labor Department. The number of people filing new applications for unemployment benefits has been trending lower since last fall, coming in below 350,000 in four of the past five weeks for the first time since 2008. If the numbers fall again, U.S. stocks could get a boost in Thursday trading.
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