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Jan. 31, 2013 at 2:30 PM
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U.S. markets rally at risk

NEW YORK, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes were mixed Thursday after the Labor Department said first-time unemployment benefit claims rose in the week ending Saturday.

With a four-week stock rally in jeopardy, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 0.1 percent in early afternoon trading after the report indicated initial claims rose by 38,000 in the week, wiping out most of a 42,000 claim decline of the past two weeks.

The DJIA shed 14 points to 13,896.42. The Nasdaq composite of tech-oriented stocks added 4.56 points, or 0.14 percent, to 3,146.70. The Standard and Poor's 500 index lost 1.01 points, or 0.07 percent, to 1,500.95.

The 10-year treasury note was yielding 1.993 percent.

Against the dollar, the euro rose to $1.3578 from Wednesday's $1.3567. The dollar rose to 91.34 yen from Wednesday's 91.09 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index added 0.22 percent, 24.71 points, to 11,138.66.

In London, the FTSE 100 index shed 0.73 percent, 46.23 points, to 6,276.88.

Spending growth slowed in December

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- U.S. consumer spending rose marginally in December -- half the pace of November's gain -- the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Consumers spent $22.6 billion more than they did in November, as spending rose 0.2 percent after rising 0.4 percent in November. But the gain was outpaced by a 2.6 percent rise in personal incomes, the department's Bureau of Economic Analysis said.

With income growth rising faster than spending, disposable Income, sums taken in above and beyond what was spent on basic needs, rose 2.7 percent in the month.

The bureau said incomes in November and December were "boosted by accelerated and special dividend payments to persons and by accelerated bonus payments and other irregular pay ... in anticipation of changes in individual income tax rates."

Dividend and bonus pay was accelerated to beat a likely income tax increase. In early January, the tax rate was raised for individuals earning $400,000 per year or above and for households with total earnings of $450,000 per year or above.

Job cuts relatively stable in January

CHICAGO, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- U.S. layoff announcements were relatively muted in January, a private outplacement firm said Thursday.

The job cuts total was 24 percent higher than December 2012, but 24 percent lower than January 2012, the firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said.

There were 32,556 announced job cuts in December and 40,430 in January. December's figure gave 2012 the lowest total since 1997.

January's total is the third lowest for the first month of the year since 1993, when the firm began keeping records, outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas said in a statement.

In January, financial and retail companies posted the most layoffs with 8,578 and 6,676 job cuts announced, respectively. For the financial sector that was a slight rise from January 2012, but for retailers it was a 46 percent decline from the first month last year.

Chief Executive Officer John Challenger said the relatively low layoff numbers indicate "that employers do not foresee a prolonged decline in economic activity."

"In fact, recent data showing increased consumer spending ... suggest that the economy is heading upward in the early part of the new year," Challenger said.

Jobs that pay on two years of college

CHICAGO, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- A four-year college degree still counts, but there are jobs that pay well with less education, U.S. employment firm CareerBuilder said Thursday.

CareerBuilder, along with Economic Modeling Specialists, compiled a list of top-paying jobs that require an associates degree, which is two years of schooling at the college level.

Among the top-paying jobs that require two years of college are radiation therapist and dental hygienist, which average pay of more than above $70,000 annually.

Paying an average of $60,000 or more are nuclear medicine technician, registered nurse, fashion designer, diagnostic medical sonographer and aerospace engineering and operations technician.

If none of those cut it, air traffic controllers earn an average of $113,547 per year with a two-year degree, CareerBuilder said.

But Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder North America, said a four-year degree has its rewards.

"Nearly one in five employers -- 18 percent -- reported that their educational requirements for jobs in their organizations have increased over the last five years," Rasmussen said.

Options for workers with four-year degrees include petroleum engineer jobs that average $122,242; airline pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers, who earn an average $105,518, and nuclear engineers who earn an average of $99,715.

Four year degrees can also help land a job as a computer hardware engineer, software developer, chemical engineer, electronics engineer, actuary or atmospheric and space scientist, all of which average $90,000 per year or better, CareerBuilder said.

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