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U.S. stocks close higher Thursday

NEW YORK, March 4 (UPI) -- U.S. markets moved ahead Thursday after the Department of Labor said the number of first-time filings for unemployment benefits fell substantially last week.

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The government said 29,000 fewer first-time claims were filed in the week ending Feb. 27 compared with the previous week.

By close, the Dow Jones industrial average added 47.38 points, 0.36 percent, to 10,444.14. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.37 percent, 4.18 points, to 1,122.97. The Nasdaq composite index of tech-dominated stock rose 0.51 percent, 11.63 points, to 2,292.31.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 1,779 stocks advanced and 1,253 declined on a volume of 3.9 billion shares traded.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. treasury bill rose 5/32 to yield 3.604 percent.

The euro fell to $1.3578 from Wednesday's $1.3696. Against the yen, the dollar rose to 89.09 yen from Wednesday's 88.42 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index lost 1.05 percent, 107.42 points, to 10,145.72.

In London, the FTSE 100 index lost 0.11 percent, 6.05, to 5,527.16.


Md. kosher market to become U.S. biggest

PIKESVILLE, Md., March 4 (UPI) -- A kosher supermarket in the Baltimore area is on track to become the largest in the United States when it moves into the site of a former Safeway store.

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Seven Mile Market in Pikesville, which opened in 1988, has about 28,000 square feet in its current location. Once it makes the short move, it will have 55,000 square feet, the Baltimore Sun reported Thursday.

Menachem Lubinsky, editor of the Kosher Today Web site, told the newspaper that will make Seven Mile "by far the largest" kosher food store in the United States. Pomegranate, a kosher store in the Brooklyn borough of New York which opened two years ago, has 30,000 square feet.

About 100,000 Jews live in the Baltimore area. But marketing experts say the market for kosher food is growing, with sales rising 64 percent between 2003 and 2008 to $12.5 billion, because of non-religious buyers.

Mintel, a marketing firm, said a survey last year found about half of those who buy kosher food said they believe it is healthier, and one-third considered it safer. Only 14 percent cited religion.

Hershel Boehm, the owner of Seven Mile, said he has been looking for a new location for some time. But he told the Sun he was too busy with shoppers getting ready for Passover to discuss the move.


Weight Watchers gives McDonald's blessing

OAK PARK, Ill., March 4 (UPI) -- McDonald's and Weight Watchers have formed an unlikely partnership in New Zealand, with three meals at the restaurant chain getting the group's blessing.

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The move is a first for the Illinois-based chain, which operates 31,000 restaurants in 119 countries, the Chicago Tribune reports.

A spokeswoman said she knew of no plans for Weight Watchers partnerships outside New Zealand.

The Weight Watchers-approved meals include Filet-O-Fish sandwiches and Chicken McNuggets combined with a salad or side salad and a diet drink or water. The meals have 6 Weight Watchers points.

Both Filet-O-Fish and Chicken McNuggets, now cooked in canola oil, have 60 percent less saturated fat than they did six years ago, McDonald's says.


Continental to sell legroom on flights

HOUSTON, March 4 (UPI) -- U.S. carrier Continental Airlines said it would offer economy-class passengers seats with extra leg room for a fee that would be determined in part by demand.

"Our customers want more choices. Seats with additional legroom are higher-value seats, and we want to offer them to customers who recognize that value," said Jim Compton, Continental's executive vice president and chief marketing officer in a statement.

The price for seats with "a minimum of seven additional inches of leg space … will vary depending on a number of factors," Continental said. Those factors include "length of flight and market," the statement said.

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OnePass Elite Frequent flyer members and those traveling with them will continue to have the extra leg room option and no charge, the airline said.

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