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Briefs

HPV screen joins Pap as cancer test

Federal health regulators have cleared a genetic test as a first-choice screening option for cervical cancer, a role previously reserved for the Pap smear, the decades-old mainstay of women’s health.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Roche’s test to detect human papillomavirus, or HPV, in women 25 and older. HPV causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer.

Doctors already use such DNA tools as a follow-up to confirm Pap test results. But Thursday’s decision means Roche can now market its test as a stand-alone option for cervical cancer screening, ahead of the Pap test.

No major medical guidelines recommend that cervical cancer screening be limited to HPV testing alone.

Durable goods orders up solid 2.6 percent

Orders to U.S. factories for long-lasting manufactured goods posted a solid gain for the second consecutive month in March.

A key category that signals business investment plans increased at the its fastest pace in four months.

Orders for durable goods increased 2.6 percent in March following a 2.1 percent rise in February, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Those back-to-back gains followed big declines in December and January, which had raised concerns about possible weakness in manufacturing.

Demand for core capital goods, considered a good guide for business investment plans, rose 2.2 percent in March after a 1.1 percent drop in February.

It was the best showing since a 3 percent rise in November.

Analysts were encouraged by the widespread strength shown in the March orders increase, saying it was an indication that manufacturing was recovering after a cold winter disrupted business activity.

Cloud strength helps Microsoft earnings

Results from Microsoft’s first quarterly earnings release under new CEO Satya Nadella offered fresh justification for his focus on cloud computing.

Microsoft Corp. on Thursday posted net income and revenue that beat Wall Street expectations.

Factoring out special items from a year ago, revenue in the January-March quarter grew 8 percent.

Nadella, who replaced longtime CEO Steve Ballmer in February, touted the fact that revenue from cloud-based Office 365 productivity software more than doubled from commercial customers, while revenue from its cloud computing service Azure grew more than 150 percent.

“This is gold rush time in being able to capitalize on the opportunity,” Nadella said.

Jobless aid requests jump by 24,000

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits surged 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 329,000 last week, though the gain likely reflected temporary layoffs in the week before Easter.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average of applications, a less volatile number, rose 4,750 to 316,750.

The four-week average fell two weeks ago to its lowest level since October 2007, two months before the recession began.

Applications can be volatile around Easter because many school systems temporarily lay off bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other employees during spring break.

Some of those workers file for unemployment benefits.

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