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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Business) -- Stocks end slightly higher on Thursday. The S&P 500 on track for its longest winning streak since September 2009. The rise coming in spite of a report that suggested layoffs might be on the rise.

Unemployment aid rose last week

A Labor Department report said the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose last week. Claims for unemployment aid up by 10-thousand last week to 354-thousand.

The government also lowered its estimate for U.S. economic growth in the first three months of the year to 2.4 percent from 2.5 percent.

ABF Freight extends labor contract

Here in Arkansas, ABF Freight System Inc. and the Teamsters extending their current labor contract through the end of June.

This comes as they await a vote by 75-hundred union workers to approve a new, five-year deal between the parties.

ABF Freight parent company Arkansas Best Corp. of Fort Smith announced the extension in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday.

Ballots will be mailed to the Teamsters on Monday and a count of votes is expected for June 27.

Arkansas Best has said reaching a deal with the union is crucial to its business plan going forward.

$3 million grant for agricultural researchers

Good news for strawberry growers throughout the U.S. A project is funded by the Wal-Mart Foundation and the University of Arkansas' Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability is awarding $3 million in grant money to 16 agricultural researchers.

Those researchers are working on a way to develop more sustainable methods for growing strawberries. The competitive grants drew 56 proposals from 29 states.

Officials say the goal is to increase local and regional production of strawberries and limit environmental impact.

That includes reducing transportation between farm and buyers and reducing product loss while in the supply chain.

Organizers say the projects will provide a basis for improving sustainability in U.S. strawberry production system.

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