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The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that its index of sales agreements dropped 2.6 percent last month to 99.2. In July, the index rose to 101.9. That was the highest level since April 2010, when the market benefited from a federal home-buying tax credit.

A reading of 100 is considered healthy. The index is 10.7 percent higher than it was a year ago. The index bottomed at 75.88 in June 2010 after the tax credit expired.

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Rate on 30-year mortgage hits record low 3.40 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell again to new record lows. The decline suggests the Federal Reserve's stimulus efforts may be having an impact on mortgage rates.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan dropped to 3.40 percent. That's down from last week's rate of 3.49 percent, which was the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, fell to 2.73 percent, down from the record low of 2.77 percent last week.

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European carmakers braced for grim future

PARIS (AP) â¿¿ European carmakers were preparing for a future of labor strife, lower sales and more financial uncertainty as they set out their latest models at the Paris Auto Show on Thursday.

France's Peugeot, Citroen and Renault see the event as a chance to show off their newest cars and prototypes to a hometown crowd, but European executives seemed just as preoccupied with the factories they believe must close to cope with a shrinking market.

The latest data show new passenger car registrations in the European Union dropped 8.9 percent in August, the 11th consecutive monthly decline. And the industry is bloated â¿¿ there are too many factories to build a dwindling number of cars.

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