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Today in business: 5 things you need to know
Jobless claims fall unexpectedly, Icahn opposes Dell's buyout proposal, and more in our roundup of the business stories that are making news and driving opinion
 
National jobless claims dropped by 7,000 to 340,000.
National jobless claims dropped by 7,000 to 340,000. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

1. NEW JOBLESS CLAIMS FALL
In the latest sign of an improving jobs market, the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell unexpectedly last week, the Labor Department reported on Thursday. First-time jobless claims fell by 7,000 to 340,000. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast the number to inch up. The four-week average is now the lowest it has been in four years, thanks to companies that are firing fewer people and buying new equipment, and families that are maintaining their spending levels despite a rise in payroll taxes. The news raised hopes that the February employment numbers due out on Friday will be encouraging. "Every indication we have is that the labor market is beginning to pick up steam," said economist Drew Matus at UBS Securities in Stamford, Conn. [Bloomberg]
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2. ICAHN OPPOSES DELL'S BUYOUT PROPOSAL
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn has come out against Michael Dell's proposal to take the PC company Dell founded private. Dell Inc. said Thursday that it had received a letter from Icahn revealing that he held a substantial stake in the company, urging the company to use its cash and new debt to pay out a $9 per share dividend. Icahn also warned that the company could face an expensive legal battle if it goes ahead with the deal. Dell's board has said the $24.4 billion buyout, at $13.65 per share, is the best option for shareholders. [Forbes]
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3. WALMART BACKS OFF ON NEW YORK CITY PUSH
Walmart, a fixture in small-town America, is easing off on its push to establish a presence in New York City, six months after fighting a losing battle to open its first store in the nation's biggest metropolis. The retail giant had hoped to open a store in the East New York section of Brooklyn, but several Democrats in this year's mayoral primary have voiced support for union efforts to keep Walmart out. Walmart's push in New York was considered crucial in its effort to expand into densely populated urban areas now that it has saturated suburban and rural America, but, according to one Walmart consultant, since the setbacks in East New York the company has "all but packed it up and left." [New York Times]
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4. FACEBOOK UNVEILS ITS REVAMPED NEWS FEED
Facebook on Thursday is rolling out a closely watched, radical redesign of its news feed — the social networks most valuable turf. The changes will give users new ways to keep tabs on what their friends are doing, making it easier for them to sort through the photos others are sharing and the music they're listening to. The changes come in response to complaints that users don't have enough control over what goes into their news feed. The redesign also marks the biggest changes to the feature since it was launched in 2006. Analysts say it's crucial for the social network to satisfy demands to make it easier to customize the news feed. Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has said this kind of move is key to bringing in more ad revenue, because "advertisers want really rich things like big pictures or videos." [Chicago Tribune]
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5. TIME WARNER ANNOUNCES PLAN TO SPIN OFF ITS MAGAZINE BUSINESS
Time Warner has decided to try spinning off its entire magazine division, Time Inc., which analysts estimate could be worth $3.2 billion. The surprise move follows talks of a potential sale of the company to rival publisher Meredith. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said in an internal memo that the spin-off could be completed this year, transforming the nine-decade-old magazine business — which includes TIME, People, and Sports Illustrated — into a publicly traded independent company. Time Warner's effort to separate its publishing and TV businesses, something other media companies have explored, will launch a "period of uncertainty" for the company's employees. [CNN, Wall Street Journal]

 
Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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