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Business Briefing

March 12, 2010

New claims for jobless benefits fall

The number of newly laid-off workers requesting unemployment benefits slipped last week but remains above the level many economists said would signal new hiring.

The four-week average of claims hit its highest level since November, reflecting a large jump in claims last month.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims fell by 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 462,000. That nearly matches Wall Street analysts' estimates and is the second straight drop.

COURTS

Chevron bid for arbitration OKd

Chevron Corp. may proceed with an arbitration stemming from a court fight over an environmental cleanup in Ecuador that might cost as much as $27 billion, a judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand in New York ruled in favor of San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron and said that an international arbitration panel may decide whether the company is getting due process in a court case in Argentina. Lawyers for Ecuador had asked Sand to block the arbitration from proceeding.

BANKING

Data on HSBC clients stolen

Information on 24,000 HSBC customers with Swiss accounts has been stolen, the British bank said, potentially exposing a large number of international clients to prosecution by tax authorities in their home countries.

A former IT employee of Swiss subsidiary HSBC Private Bank (Suisse), identified by French authorities as Herve Falciani, obtained the information between late 2006 and early 2007, the bank said. The accounts, held by individuals worldwide, were all opened before October 2006, and some 9,000 have since been closed.

"We . . . unreservedly apologize to our clients for this threat to their privacy," said Alexandre Zeller, chief executive of the Swiss unit.

-- times wire reports

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