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Mortgage rates at lowest point since mid-1950s

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Mortgages are cheaper today than they've been in a half-century. If only most people had the job security, the credit score and the cash to qualify.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed loan sank to 4.69 percent this week, beating the low set in December and down from 4.75 percent last week, Freddie Mac said Thursday. Rates for 15-year and five-year mortgages also hit lows.

Rates are at their lowest since the mortgage company began keeping records in 1971. The last time they were any cheaper was the 1950s, when most long-term home loans lasted just 20 or 25 years.

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Companies ramp up spending, fuel economic growth

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Companies are spending again, and that could mean better economic times ahead.

Businesses have invested more money in machinery, computers, steel and other metals in three of the past four months. The uptick is fueling economic growth in the second quarter and may lead to more jobs later this year.

The rise in corporate spending comes at a critical time for the recovery. The unemployment rate has been stuck near double digits all year. And while the pace of layoffs slowed last week, the number of people seeking first-time jobless benefits remains about the same as in January.

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Retailers, banks pull stocks lower; Dow slides 146

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Disappointing forecasts from retailers and concern about the government's financial overhaul package pounded stocks Thursday.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 146 points to 10,152.80 after edging higher Wednesday. Broader indexes dropped for a fourth straight day.

Downbeat forecasts from retailers raised concerns that high unemployment and weak consumer spending would stall an economic rebound. Nike Inc. dropped 4 percent after saying increased costs could hurt earnings. Bed Bath & Beyond fell 2.4 percent after the home goods retailer's second-quarter earnings forecast missed expectations.

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