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The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage ticked down to 2.64 percent from 2.65 percent last week. The record low is 2.63 percent.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate averaged 3.66 percent in 2012, the lowest annual average in 65 years, according to Freddie Mac.

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Feds, Transocean reach $1.4 billion deal over Gulf spill

NEW ORLEANS (AP) â¿¿ The Justice Department reached a $1.4 billion settlement Thursday with Transocean Ltd., the owner of the drilling rig that sank after an explosion killed 11 workers and created the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The proposed settlement resolves the department's civil and criminal probes of Transocean's role in the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster. It requires the Switzerland-based company to pay $1 billion in civil penalties and $400 million in criminal penalties and plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating the Clean Water Act, according to a court filing.

The deal, which is subject to a federal judge's approval, also calls for Transocean to implement a series of operational safety and emergency response improvements on its rigs.

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Superstorm Sandy tops 2012 insurance claims

BERLIN (AP) â¿¿ Natural disasters cost insurers $65 billion last year, with the U.S. accounting for 90 percent of the bill and Superstorm Sandy prompting payouts of $25 billion, a leading insurance company said Thursday.

However Munich Re AG said that total insured losses worldwide were down from a record $119 billion in 2011, when devastating earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand cost the industry dearly.

The company said total economic costs in 2012 from natural disasters worldwide â¿¿ including uninsured losses â¿¿ amounted to $160 billion, compared with the previous year's $400 billion.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average ended with a loss of 21.19 points at 13,391.36. The S&P 500 lost 3.05 points to 1,459.37 and the Nasdaq composite fell 11.69 to 3,100.57.

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