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•  From the Washington Post:

"Americans filing initial jobless claims tumbled to their lowest level in 52 years last week, the Labor Department reported Wednesday.

"The number of Americans filing initial unemployment claims tumbled to 199,000 — the lowest level since November 1969 — the Labor Department reported Wednesday, part of a spate of positive economic news that signaled that many of the wrinkles of the nation’s recovery continue to be smoothing out.

"It was just the latest bit of good news for the labor market, which remains about 4 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels but has staged a strong recovery, adding about 581,000 jobs a month on average this year.

"Separately, the Commerce Department said that consumer spending increased by 1.3 percent in October, its fastest pace since March, in a sign that Americans are continuing to spend."

•  Yahoo Finance reports that in the UK, "The billionaire Issa brothers are weighing up a merger of Asda and their petrol station business EG Group.

"The Blackburn-based entrepreneurs have been reviewing options to break up their sprawling global forecourt empire.  But they could merge the two businesses instead, valuing the combined entity at about $35 billion."

According to the story, "Last month it emerged that the supermarket chain would be lumbered with £500m more debt than previously anticipated after a deal to sell its own petrol stations collapsed.  The brothers planned to transfer Asda’s forecourt business to EG Group as part of a complex deal that was meant to reduce the supermarket’s debt."

•  Bloomberg reports that "Ikea opened its biggest store in the world in the Philippines, with the new 730,000 square foot facility in Manila a cornerstone of the home-furnishings giant’s expansion plans in Asia … Its opening comes as Ikea has expanded its e-commerce presence -- which proved timely during the pandemic -- with online orders now accounting for 26% of its global sales. The company, which has more than 460 physical stores in about 60 markets, is planning to add nearly 60 more locations in the current financial year. And it’s not just looking toward Asia: It will take its first step into South America this spring, opening a branch in Santiago, Chile."