Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages ticked up from record lows last week. Cheaper mortgages are fueling a modest housing recovery that could help the broader economy.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan increased to 3.39 percent from 3.36 percent. The previous week’s rate was the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.
The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage edged up to 2.70 percent, from last week’s record low of 2.69 percent.
Trade deficit rose to $44.2 billion in August
The U.S. trade deficit widened in August from July because exports fell to the lowest level in six months. The wider deficit likely weighed on already-weak economic growth.
The deficit grew 4.1 percent to $44.2 billion in August, the biggest gap since May, the Commerce Department said Thursday.
Exports dropped 1 percent to $181.3 billion. Demand for American-made cars and farm goods declined.
Imports edged down a slight 0.1 percent to $225.5 billion. Purchases of foreign-made autos, aircraft and heavy machinery fell. The cost of oil imports rose sharply.
Jobless claims fall to 339K, fewest in four-plus years
The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid plummeted last week to seasonally adjusted 339,000, the lowest level in more than four years. The sharp drop, if sustained, could signal a stronger job market.
The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications fell by 30,000 to the fewest since February 2008. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, dropped by 11,500 to 364,000, a six-month low.
The positive figures follow a report last week that said the unemployment rate fell in September to 7.8 percent. It was the first time since January 2009 that the rate dropped below 8 percent.