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Economy Briefs: Rate on 30-year home loan notches up to 3.41 percent

- - Thursday, October 25, 2012

MORTGAGE

Average U.S. mortgage rates rose slightly this week and continued to hover near record lows, a trend that has helped boost home sales and refinancing.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage edged up to 3.41 percent, from 3.37 last week.

Three weeks ago, the rate touched 3.36 percent. That was the lowest level on mortgage rate records dating to 1971.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, often used for refinancing, rose to 2.72 percent. That was up from last week's record low of 2.66 percent.

LABOR

Weekly filings for jobless aid suggest modest hiring levels

Weekly applications for U.S. unemployment aid fell last week to a seasonally adjusted 369,000, a level consistent with modest hiring.

The Labor Department said Thursday that unemployment benefit applications dropped by 23,000, from a revised 392,000 the previous week.

The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, rose to 368,000.

The figures appear to have stabilized after being distorted in the previous two weeks by seasonal adjustment problems.

COMMERCE

Durable-goods orders show weak business investment

American companies remained cautious in September and held back on orders for long-lasting manufactured goods that signal investment plans.

Weak business investment has contributed to slower economic growth.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders for durable goods jumped 9.9 percent last month.

Although the report showed the biggest gain in nearly three years, most of the September increase was driven by a tremendous spike in aircraft orders, which are very volatile and plummeted in the previous month.

When taking out transportation, orders rose just 2 percent. Demand for core capital goods, such as machinery and equipment, were unchanged in September.

REAL ESTATE

Sales contracts to buy homes rise at a slow pace

The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes has risen slightly, suggesting that sales may level off in the coming months after posting solid gains in the past year.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that its seasonally adjusted index of sales agreements rose in September to a reading of 99.5.

That was up from August's reading of 99.2 but below a two-year high of 101.9 reached in July.

Contracts are up 14.5 percent from a year ago.

An index reading above 100 is considered healthy.

The index bottomed at 75.88 in June 2010 after a homebuyer's tax credit expired.

OIL

BP caps dome thought to be source of oil sheen

NEW ORLEANS — BP PLC said Thursday that it has capped and plugged an abandoned piece of equipment that is thought to be the source of a sheen spotted near the site of its massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The London-based oil giant said it placed a 750-pound cap over an 86-ton steel container that the company had deployed in a failed effort to contain the spill.

BP also inserted plugs on the top and sides of the container, which had been lowered over a leaking drill pipe in an effort to funnel oil to the surface.

BP and the Coast Guard say no oil has been seen leaking out of the container since it was capped and plugged. The operation started Tuesday and lasted roughly 26 hours.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports