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.


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.


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.


Oracle's net jumps 25 pct in first full Sun quarter

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) â¿¿ Oracle Corp.'s net income jumped 25 percent in the most recent quarter as CEO Larry Ellison trumpeted momentum in the company's efforts to sell computer hardware and in its showdown with IBM Corp.

The results, reported Thursday after the market closed, were helped by stronger sales of database and other business software and a bump from its acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

Sun, which makes computer servers, has been struggling with severe market-share declines, but cost cuts under Oracle appear to be turning the company around.


Discover posts profit as credit card use jumps

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Discover Financial Services said Thursday that it returned to profitability in its fiscal second quarter as consumers spent more with their credit cards.

The company also said the rate of accounts in early delinquency continued declining. In the quarter, Discover put aside $724 million for bad debt. That was 44 percent less than last year.

The results reinforce recent signs that the consumer credit landscape is improving. Still, the recovery has a long way to go. The national credit card charge-off rate remains elevated at 9.95 percent, compared with about 4 percent before the downturn, according to data from the Federal Reserve.


Lennar reverses loss in 2nd quarter, sales slump

LOS ANGELES (AP) â¿¿ Lennar Corp. said Thursday it bounced back from a year-ago loss in its fiscal second quarter, but the end of federal homebuyer tax credits hurt the homebuilder's new home orders and contributed to a 9 percent drop in revenue.

Chief Executive Stuart Miller said new home orders got progressively weaker in the March-May quarter once the government incentives expired at the end of April. But he noted demand appears to be improving this month and he stressed the company should remain profitable this year.

Nationally, sales of new homes collapsed in May, sinking 33 percent to the lowest level on record.


Latest Pfizer drug failure shows worrisome trend

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) â¿¿ Yet another experimental drug heavily touted by Pfizer Inc. has foundered in advanced testing, raising worries about productivity problems at the world's biggest drugmaker.

Safety problems with potential osteoarthritis treatment tanezumab, quietly disclosed Wednesday evening, on Thursday triggered a drop in Pfizer shares and a burst of notes to investors from analysts concerned about the trend.

This Monday, New-York Pfizer said it was pulling bone cancer drug Mylotarg off the market 10 years after it got accelerated U.S. approval, because recent research found the drug increased chances of dying in patients also getting chemotherapy.


Ex-Brocade CEO sent to prison for stock backdating

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) ⿿ A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Brocade Communications Inc.'s former CEO to 1½ years in prison for failing to disclose ⿿ and then covering up ⿿ a plan to alter the date of stock option grants so employees could reap greater compensation.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer also fined Gregory Reyes $15 million. Reyes is to report to prison Sept. 10. Reyes' lawyers said he is considering an appeal.

A jury in March convicted Reyes of nine counts of fraud and making false statements. The jury acquitted him of a conspiracy charge.


Gasoline prices up as July 4th holiday approaches

Filling up the family car's gas tank is getting more expensive as the 4th of July weekend nears, but that won't stop a lot of people from hitting the road.

Gasoline prices rose 1.2 cents Thursday to a national average of $2.753 per gallon, according t AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. Pump prices are 2.7 cents per gallon lower than month-ago levels and 7.7 cents higher than a year ago.

Prices have jumped 4.6 cents in the past week. AAA expects gas to average between $2.70 and $2.80 per gallon for the holiday. That's about the same as the Memorial Day weekend.


Former Qwest CEO's sentence cut by 2 months, $7.4M

DENVER (AP) â¿¿ A federal judge on Thursday cut former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio's insider trading sentence by two months and reduced the amount of money he must forfeit by $7.4 million.

Nacchio was convicted of selling $52 million in Qwest Communications International Inc. stock in 2001 based on nonpublic information that Qwest was in danger of missing its sales forecasts that year.

Nacchio originally was sentenced in 2007 to six years in prison and was ordered to forfeit $52 million, but the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the sentence should be recalculated to focus on how much of Nacchio's profits actually came from having insider information. By The Associated Press

The Dow fell 145.64, or 1.4 percent, to 10,152.80.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 18.35, or 1.7 percent, to 1,073.69. It was the first four-day drop for the S&P 500 index since early May. The Nasdaq composite index fell 36.81, 1.6 percent, to 2,217.42.

Crude oil rose 16 cents to settle at $76.51 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil fell 1.12 cents to settle at $2.0572 a gallon, gasoline gained 1.12 cents to settle at $2.0935 a gallon and natural gas was off 6.6 cents to settle at $4.748 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Brent crude rose 20 cents to settle at $76.47 on the ICE futures exchange.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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