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The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits fell sharply for the second straight week, touching the lowest level since May 2007, but at least part of the drop probably stemmed from lingering seasonal affects tied to a late Easter holiday. 

U.S. manufacturing companies expanded in April at the fastest pace since the end of last year, a survey of executives found. The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index rose to 54.9% last month from 53.7% in March, marking the highest level since December. 

Americans turned slightly less confident in April about the availability of jobs and the health of the U.S. economy, but optimism is still running higher than at any time in the past six years.