■ Fewer people signed up for unemployment benefits in the US last week, the Labor Department revealed yesterday, but the decline was smaller than in previous weeks and provides renewed evidence that the economic recovery is struggling. Initial jobless claims fell 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000. Still, a separate report offered fresh hopes of a pickup in the housing market, which has been a drag on wider economic growth since the 2007-2009 recession. The National Association of Realtors said contracts to purchase previously owned US homes rose 4.1 per cent to a near two-year high in March. US stocks rose following the release of the home sales data.