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Ex-Fed governor dies at 86

Andrew F. Brimmer, who became the first black member of the Federal Reserve Board in 1966 and headed a panel that managed the spending and financial practices of the District of Columbia government during a fiscal crisis in the 1990s, has died.

Brimmer, who died Oct. 7 at George Washington University Hospital, was 86.

Brimmer, a Harvard-trained economist, had worked in academia and for the Commerce Department before President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to the seven-member Federal Reserve Board of Governors, which sets the country’s monetary policy and interest rates.

Time magazine dubbed Brimmer “the Federal Reserve Board’s Jackie Robinson,” after the first black player in major league baseball. Unlike many other members of the Fed board, Brimmer used his position to advocate for wider education opportunities in the inner cities and warned that racial discrimination damaged the economy by marginalizing valuable workers. He left the Fed board in 1974.

Trade deficit widens as US exports drop

The U.S. trade deficit widened in August as slower global growth reduced demand for American exports.

The gap grew 4.1 percent to $44.2 billion from $42.5 billion in July, Commerce Department figures showed Thursday. Exports decreased to the lowest level since February. A separate report showed the cost of goods shipped to the United States rose more than forecast in September.

A stagnant Europe and slower growth in China and other emerging markets may curtail demand for American products, which had been a source of strength for U.S. manufacturers.

The trade report from the Commerce Department showed exports decreased 1 percent in August to $181.3 billion. Imports decreased 0.1 percent to $225.5 billion, also the weakest since February.

Jobless claims fall; could reflect adjusting

Fewer Americans than forecast filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week, which might reflect difficulty adjusting the data for seasonal swings at the start of a quarter.

Applications for jobless benefits dropped 30,000 to 339,000 in the week ended Oct. 6, the fewest since February 2008, Labor Department figures showed Thursday. One state accounted for most of the plunge in claims, a spokesman said.

The report “is consistent with a labor market that is gradually getting better,” said Guy Berger, an economist at RBS Securities Inc. in Stamford, Conn., who had predicted a decline in claims. “Layoffs are at a low level and don’t seem to be going anywhere. Hiring is still very muted.”

Velvet Ice Cream recalls peanut items

An Ohio ice cream maker is voluntarily recalling some of its peanut butter-flavored products because of suspected salmonella contamination.

Velvet Ice Cream said Thursday that some of the peanut products bought from Sunland Inc. for use in the ice cream flavors could be contaminated.

The recalled Velvet products are mostly sold at convenience stores, ice cream parlors and small, independent retailers in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

The possibly affected Velvet brands include Peanut Butter Cup, Supreme Peanut Butter Cup and Buckeye Classic.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating.