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MORTGAGES

Interest rates fall again, 30-year notes near record low

Fixed mortgage rates fell to at or near record lows. That’s good news for the few who can afford to buy a home or are able to refinance. But the rates have done little to lift the ailing housing market.

Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 4.32 percent this week from 4.39 percent. The 30-year loan hit a record low of 4.17 percent in mid-November.

The average rate on a 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, fell to a record low of 3.50 percent, from last week’s record rate of 3.54 percent.

UNEMPLOYMENT

Aid applications at 395,000, a 4-month low for new claims

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week below 400,000 for the first time in four months, a sign that the job market may be improving slowly after a recent slump.

Applications for unemployment aid dropped by 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 395,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Applications had been above 400,000 for the previous 17 weeks.

The four-week average, a less-volatile figure, fell to 405,000, its sixth straight decline and the lowest level since mid-April. That suggests layoffs have eased.

The decline in applications helped lift stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average rose more than 85 points in the first hour of trading.

Applications fell in February to 375,000, a level that reflects healthy job growth. They soared to an eight-month high of 478,000 in late April, and have declined slowly since then.

There were fewer layoffs last week in the manufacturing, transportation and service industries, according to the report. Only nine states reported an increase in applications.

BOEING

With 19 new 777 orders, backlog for planes grows

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