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Business Highlights

Exxon will acquire 196,000 acres, boosting its holdings in the region to almost 600,000 acres. The acreage acquired is expected to produce 15,000 barrels of oil and other hydrocarbons per day in the second half of this year. Exxon can increase production with new drilling in the future.

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Stock buybacks rise after 2 quarters of declines

BOSTON (AP) â¿¿ America's biggest corporations dipped into their flush cash reserves to reward shareholders by spending more to buy back their stock in the second quarter.

Share repurchases by companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index totaled nearly $112 billion from April through June, S&P Dow Jones Indices said on Thursday. That's up about one-third from $84 billion in the first three months of the year.

Repurchases are attractive options now for companies to put their cash reserves to work. Cash holdings have risen steadily since the financial crisis, climbing to a record $1.03 trillion among S&P 500 companies during last year's fourth quarter. Cash slipped to $985 billion in the latest quarter due to increased spending on mergers and acquisitions, but reserves remain historically high, said Howard Silverblatt, an S&P Dow Jones Indices analyst.

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Rate on 30-year mortgage falls to record 3.49 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage touched its record low this week and the rate on 15-year mortgage hit a new record.

The declines followed the Federal Reserve announcement last week that it would buy bonds to try to push mortgage rates lower and stimulate the housing market.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan declined to 3.49 percent from 3.55 percent last week. That matched the lowest rate since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 18.97 points to 13,596.93. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.79 of a point to close at 1,460.26. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 6.66 points to 3,175.96.

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