Netflix is about to venture into original content.
Netflix is about to venture into original content. - 

Fewer people lined up for unemployment benefits last week. The Labor Department said just moments ago that number fell to 372,000 -- low enough perhaps to drop the unemployment rate. Plus, Payroll company ADP says private employment jumped by 325,000 in December, nearly twice what economists were expecting. And job placement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas said planned job cuts were down 1.6 percent between November and December.

U.S. service companies, which employ 90 percent of the workforce, expanded at a faster pace in December, helped by solid holiday sales and an economy that picked up strength in the final months of the year.

Shares of Target and Kohl's are down more than 3 percent. They're among a group of major retailers reporting solid holiday sales this morning. But shoppers were serious about their bargain hunting and retailers had to cut expected earnings. Warehouse store Costco said today December sales rose by 7 percent at its stores open at least a year. But that was lower than expected. Chain stores The Limited and Macy's, however, posted strong revenue gains.

Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.91 percent this week, matching the record low reached two weeks ago.

Shares of Netflix jumped more than 11 percent yesterday. That's after the online streaming and movie renting service said subscribers watched more than 2-billion hours of movies and old TV shows in the last three months of the year.

And brace yourself for a rent hike. Apartment vacancy rates are at their lowest level in a decade -- down at about 5 percent in the last part of 2011. That pushed rents up in most parts of the country.

Things aren't bubbling up down under like they used to. There's a soda shortage in Australia. A couple of carbon dioxide plant shutdowns in the country have drink makers like Schweppes coming up short on fizz for their products which is creating a shortage in some areas.

A Polish art student admitted to hanging one of his own paintings at the country's National Museum. The student said he didn't want people to have to wait 30 or 40 years for his work to make it into a museum. Bad news for the artist: museum employees had the work removed. But the good news is, it took them 3 days to notice it was there.

We are the 1 percent. A World bank economist just revealed a surprising figure: to be part of the richest 1 percent -- you only have to earn $34,000a year. That's the richest 1 percent in the world. About half of the world's richest people live in the US. To be in the top 1 percent here? You have to pull in about $344,000 a year.

Not part of that 1 percent? Never fear. In today's Mid-day Extra, we look at what items will be cheaper this year, so you can find the best deals for dollars.

Follow Mary Dooe at @@Dooezer