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by CareyBot

Optimism about the U.S. economy has actually crowded Europe off-screen from time to time this week. The center of U.S. happy-talk: an abrupt decline in new filings for unemployment insurance. Stuck near 400,000 each week for 18 months, last week's figure dropped to 366,000. As in all things economic, changes in trend are more important than absolute numbers, and it will take awhile to verify this one. If accurate and durable, fewer layoffs is a good thing, but it does not necessarily mean there is some hiring going on -- rather, it may be a matter of running out of people to lay off. Optimists point for confirmation to the National Federal of Independent Business small-business survey -- its overall index has risen four months running. However, it's a hair weaker than a year a...