The number of Americans filing initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell by 11,000 last week, a higher than anticipated dropoff, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Economists believe the development signals that the job market remains healthy. Although the monthly unemployment rate inched up to 4.8 percent from a 4-1/2-year low of 4.7 percent in January, better job prospects may be luring more job seekers back into the labor market.

The College Board, the nonprofit organization that owns the SAT college entrance exam, disclosed more problems in providing accurate scores. The latest in a string of embarrassing revelations brings the number of students who've received incorrectly low scores to 4,411. From now on, all answer sheets will be scanned twice, according to the board.

Existing-home sales rose 5.2 percent in February, spurred by mild, house-buying weather, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. Rising mortgage rates are expected to slow sales in the coming months.

For the fourth time, Nevada filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping a federal government plan to bury 77,000 tons of nuclear waste in the desert 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The complaint accuses the government of withholding documents that show the Yucca Mountain site is unsafe for holding so much radioactive waste.

Americans are now about evenly divided in their acceptance of gay marriage, according to a poll released by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The survey shows that opposition to same-sex marriage has dropped from 63 percent to 51 percent since 2004.

Sgt. Michael J. Smith , the latest of 10 soldiers convicted in the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal, was sentenced to six months in jail and demoted for using an unmuzzled dog to torment detainees. Other punishments in the case, in which most low-ranking defendants said they were only following orders, have ranged from no prison time to 10 years.

Looking to pay for a massive General Motors Corp. employee buyout, the company sold a 78 percent share of its financing arm (GMAC Commercial Holding Corp.) for $1.5 billion in cash Thursday to an investor group that includes Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. The deal also includes $7.3 billion in repaid intercompany loans.

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