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Stocks in this article: COSTGOOGM

In one positive sign, orders for business equipment and software, often considered a proxy for investment plans, rose 1.1 percent, after two steep declines. Still, orders for steel, electrical equipment, and industrial machinery all fell.

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Rate on 30-year mortgage hits record 3.36 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Average rates on fixed mortgages fell to record lows for the second straight week. The declines have led more homeowners to refinance, a trend that could help boost the economy.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan dropped to 3.36 percent. That's down from last week's rate of 3.40 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, dipped to 2.69 percent, down from last week's record low of 2.73 percent.

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Facebook now home to 1 billion monthly users

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ More than a billion people now log onto Facebook each month to check up on old friends, tag photos of new ones and post about politics, religion, cats or what their kids are doing.

That's double the 500 million it hit in July 2010 . Facebook had 100 million users in August 2008.

The latest milestone amounts to nearly half of the world's roughly 2.5 billion Internet users, as measured by the International Telecommunications Union.

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Google, publishers shelve book-scanning suit

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â¿¿ Google and major book publishers have settled a lengthy legal battle over digital copyrights, but a bigger dispute still looms with thousands of authors who allege that Google is illegally profiting from their works.

The truce announced Thursday ends a federal lawsuit filed in 2005 by several members of the Association of American Publishers after Google Inc. began stockpiling its Internet search index with digital duplicates of books scanned from libraries.

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