NEW YORK, March 7 (UPI) -- The Dow Jones index closed at its third consecutive all-time high Thursday after the U.S. Labor Department said first-time unemployment claims fell last week.
Initial claims declined by 7,000 to 340,000 in the week ending March 2, the department said. The four-week running average fell to 348,750 -- its lowest level since March 2008.
By close of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average added 33.25 points, or 0.23 percent, to 14,329.49.
The Standard and Poor's 500 index added 2.80 points, or 0.18 percent, to 1,544.26. The Nasdaq composite gained 9.72 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,232.09.
On the New York Stock Exchange, 1,773 stocks advanced and 1,290 declined on a volume of 3.6 billion shares traded.
The 10-year U.S. treasury note fell 18/32 to yield 2.003 percent.
Against the dollar the euro rose to $1.3107 from Wednesday's $1.2966. Against the yen, the dollar was higher at 94.81 yen from 93.07 yen.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.3 percent on a gain of 35.81 points, to 11,968.08.
In London, the FTSE 100 index added 0.18 percent, 11.52, to 6,439.16.
Fed stress tests show healthier banks
WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. Federal Reserve said the largest 18 U.S. banks have shown improved resilience as they distance themselves from the 2008 financial crisis.
After the third round of bank "stress tests," in which the Fed presented the banks with hypothetical crisis scenarios, the Fed said in a statement Thursday "the nation's largest bank holding companies have continued to improve their ability to withstand an extremely adverse hypothetical economic scenario and are collectively in a much stronger capital position than before the financial crisis."
Next week, in further action mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, the Fed will release its response to bank financial requests that include asking permission for share dividend and stock repurchasing plans.
In the release Thursday, the Fed said only Ally Financial failed to meet its minimum standard for a capital-to-risk ratio. The Fed measured high quality capital against risk-weighted assets and was looking for a level above 5 percent.
Some of Wall Street's flagship financial firms came close to 5 percent -- with Morgan Stanley at 5.7 percent, Goldman Sachs at 5.8 percent, JP Morgan Chase at 6.3 percent and Bank of America at 6.8 percent, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The ratio was 13.2 percent at Bank of New York Mellon Corp. and 12.8 percent at State Street Corp.
Icahn stirs the pot at Dell
ROUND ROCK, Texas, March 7 (UPI) -- Billionaire investor Carl Icahn said U.S. computer maker Dell Inc. should consider a $9 per share dividend if a sale of the company falls through.
In a letter to the company, Icahn said he would put the company through "years of litigation" if the board did accept the proposal and then, if the proposal was rejected, did not allow a vote on the privatization sale at its next annual shareholder meeting.
Dell's founder Michael Dell has spearheaded an effort to take the company private in a $24.4 billion deal that several major shareholders have said undervalues the company.
The $24.4 billion amounts to a sale with a per share value of $13.65.
Icahn's deal puts a "stub" value of each share at $13.81. Combined with the $9 per share dividend, Icahn's considers each share's true value to be $22.81.
"We have spent a great deal of time and effort in determining the $22.81 per share value and would pleased to meet with you to share our analysis and to understand why you disagree, if you do," the letter to the company says.
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Icahn owns 6 percent of Dell. He is the company's second largest shareholder after Michael Dell.
The company said it was focused on a "go-shop" process, which is a time period, which ends March 22, in which it hunts around for a better deal than the $24.4 billion deal put together by its founder.
Law schools launching clinics of their own
TUCSON, March 7 (UPI) -- Several U.S. law school administrators said launching their own school-based law firms would help unemployed graduates and low income clients simultaneously.
The New York Times reported Thursday that a trend is developing among law schools that are starting incubator law firms that allow graduates who cannot find work to get a job and much needed experience. At the same time, several administrators said the new firms would focus on helping underserved clients -- a win, win situation.
"I realized that was what we needed: A teaching hospital for law school graduates," said the Dean of the Arizona State University Law School, referring to the new legal clinic he is starting that will hire 30 recent graduates and mimic the experience of medical students in mentor programs at hospitals.
The school plans to charge $125 per hour for legal aid, about half the going rate for the area.
In that set up, graduates would have a job and those who could not afford standard legal fees would get help.
"The longstanding concerns over access to justice for mostly Americans and a lack of skills among law graduates are now combined with the problems faced by all law schools. It's creating conditions for change," said Stacy Caplow, a professor at the Brooklyn Law School.
Caplow called the conditions in the profession "a perfect storm," in that good jobs are becoming harder to find in a struggling economy, especially with the Internet prompting an increasing number of Americans to represent themselves in court, the Times said.
On the other hand, "We charge $50 an hour, and I don't take any pay," said Dennis Gladwell,who is director of a University of Utah legal clinic that has a staff of five law school graduates.
Gladwell was skeptical of a clinic that called $125 per hour a goodwill gesture. "If you are going to charge $125, you are not going to serve an underserved population," he said."
Others said a school hiring its own graduates could be blatantly trying to increase the schools rating, given more of its graduates could claim to have jobs.
Still, the trend is gathering momentum. The Times said a dozen law schools are starting new law clinics, including the University of California Hastings College of the Law, City University of New York, Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, and Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y.