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Economy Briefs

- - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

UNEMPLOYMENT

Slightly more people seek jobless benefits

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits ticked up slightly last week after two months of steady declines.

But the increase isn't enough to reverse the downward trend. The four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, fell to its lowest level since April. The decline in the average signals that companies are laying off fewer workers.

Weekly applications for unemployment aid rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 393,000, the Labor Department said Wednesday. It is only the second increase in six weeks. The four-week average fell to 394,250. That is the eighth drop in the past nine weeks.

MORTGAGES

Rate on 30-year fixed loan falls to 3.98%

The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage hovered above its record low for a fourth straight week. But cheap mortgage rates have done little to boost home sales or refinancing.

Freddie Mac says the rate on the 30-year fixed loan fell to 3.98 percent from 4 percent the previous week. Seven weeks ago, it dropped to a record low of 3.94 percent, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage edged down to 3.3 percent from 3.31 percent. It too hit a record low seven weeks ago, of 3.26 percent.

Rates have been below 5 percent for all but two weeks this year.

UNIONS

Teamsters expand lawsuit against Mexican trucks

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has expanded its lawsuit against the government in a long-running battle that has stopped Mexican trucks from coming deep into the United States.

In papers filed in federal appeals court in Washington on Wednesday, the union says the government must first assess the environmental impact of a pilot project before letting it continue. The first Mexican truck in the pilot program crossed the border last month.

Teamsters President James P. Hoffa says opening the border to the trucks is an attack on the environment, on highway safety and on American truckers and warehouse workers.

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement signed nearly two decades ago, trucks from both countries were supposed to have unhindered access to highways on either side of the border.

TECHNOLOGY

Penguin reverses course for now on Kindle lending

SAN FRANCISCO | One of the country's largest publishers, Penguin Group (USA), is temporarily restoring libraries' ability to loan their e-books for Amazon.com's Kindle, but only through the end of the year.

The publisher backtracked Wednesday after saying it was informed by Amazon.com Inc. that the online retailer wasn't aware of Penguin's agreement with OverDrive, a leading supplier of e-books to libraries.

Penguin, which is based in New York, had suspended making new e-books available to libraries and said it won't allow libraries to loan any e-books for the Kindle because of unspecified security concerns.

Amazon, based in Seattle, allows Kindle users to borrow e-books from local libraries through a partnership with OverDrive. The partnership vastly increases the Kindle's presence in libraries and encourages patrons to visit Amazon's website and buy books.

Penguin asked OverDrive to disable its "Get for Kindle" function on Penguin books Monday, and OverDrive said it and Penguin were "in the process of looking at new terms" for libraries.

AUTO

BMW raises prices in North America

DETROIT | German automaker BMW says it is raising prices on most of its models in North America to cover the cost of inflation.

The company says it balanced inflation against competitive pressures and the auto sales market before deciding on increases of less than 1 percent. The raises take effect Jan. 1.

BMW also raised its shipping fee 2 percent to $895. Price increases range from $170 to $320 per vehicle.

The price of BMW's lowest-cost car, the 128i Coupe, will rise 0.5 percent to $32,095, including shipping. The most-expensive BMW, the X6-M sport utility vehicle, rises 0.4 percent to $91,195.