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The US trade gap narrowed slightly in March, confounding expectations of a rise. Meanwhile, first-time jobless claims fell more than Wall Street anticipated.

The trade gap fell by $100m in March from the previous month to $43.7bn, according to data from the US commerce department released on Thursday. Economists forecast a reading of $44.5bn.

Imports and exports both slipped by $1.7bn, to $234.7bn and $191bn, respectively.

The trade deficit is a drag on gross domestic product, so lower figures could be a positive to future readings on first-quarter economic growth.

Meanwhile, weekly claims for first-time unemployment benefits slid to 238,000 last week, from 257,000 the week prior. Wall Street was looking for a higher figure of 248,000.

The data come just a day ahead of the closely watched monthly jobs report from the labour department that is expected to show the economy added 190,000 jobs last month.

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