Economy Briefs

NEW YORK | Driven by the success of the iPhone and iPad, Apple Inc. has become the world’s largest buyer of chips for computers and phones, a research firm said Wednesday.

Apple bought $17.5 billion worth of chips last year, surpassing computer maker Hewlett-Packard Co. as the largest consumer, IHS iSuppli said. That was an increase of 80 percent from the year before, reflecting Apple’s continuing sales surge.

An iPhone contains about $80 worth of chips, according to iSuppli. The chips include the central processor that acts as the brains of the device, radio chips that let it talk to cell towers and the audio chip that converts the owner’s voice into a stream of data.

STUDENT LOANS

Wells Fargo offers fixed-rate student loans

NEW YORK | Wells Fargo is hoping to make its student loans more attractive to families.

The San Francisco-based bank says it is now offering fixed-rate student loans, which is a departure from the industry practice. Unlike federal student loans, the private student loans issued by banks typically come with variable interest rates that are tied to a benchmark rate.

Wells Fargo says its fixed rates will range from 7.75 percent to 14.25 percent, depending on the credit background of the applicant or co-signer, who is often a parent.

Wells Fargo’s fixed rates are higher than the 6.8 percent fixed rate on most federal student loans. Federal loans also offer safeguards that do not come with private student loans.

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