- - Thursday, June 21, 2012


The average U.S. rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage fell this week to a record low for the seventh time in eight weeks. Cheap mortgages have helped drive a modest recovery in the weak housing market this year.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average on the 30-year loan dropped to 3.66 percent. That’s down from 3.71 percent last week and the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average rate on the 15-year mortgage, a popular refinancing option, declined to 2.95 percent. That’s down from 2.98 percent last week and just above the record 2.94 percent reached two weeks ago.


Oil dips below $80 a barrel, lowest in nearly 9 months

The price of oil hit its lowest level in almost nine months Thursday - $78.20 a barrel. That’s down almost 30 percent from a peak in February. It could keep falling if the U.S. and world economies continue to sputter.

Cheaper oil means cheaper gasoline. And on Thursday, the national average for gasoline dropped to $3.472 per gallon. That’s 17 cents cheaper than a year ago and down 46 cents from its peak in early April. Experts say gasoline could fall to $3.30 per gallon by the Fourth of July.


Twitter site down briefly on Thursday afternoon

NEW YORK — Twitter users were unable to access the micro-blogging service for about an hour on Thursday.

Twitter said on its status blog that its engineers were investigating the issue. About an hour later, it said the issue had been resolved. The short messaging service was working again by early afternoon. The company declined to say how widespread the outage was or what caused it.

Outages were once a relatively common occurrence for Twitter, but that was several years ago when it was new and trying to manage growth. It was shut down at least twice in August 2009, once for several hours, when hackers hobbled the site in a “denial of service” attack.


Spanish banks need up to $78 billion bailout

MADRID — Spain’s troubled banks could need as much as $78.76 billion in new capital to withstand future economic shocks, independent auditors have calculated.

Presenting the results of the auditors’ reports into the country’s struggling financial sector, Deputy Bank of Spain Governor Fernando Restoy noted that this worst-case scenario was far below the $127.04 billion loan lifeline offered by the 17 countries that use the euro.


May home sales down 1.5 percent from April

Americans bought fewer homes in May than April, suggesting a sluggish job market could threaten a modest recovery in housing.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales of previously occupied homes dropped 1.5 percent in May from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.55 million.

Sales have risen 9.6 percent from a year ago, evidence that home sales are slowly improving. Still, the pace has fallen since nearly touching a two-year high in April and remains well below the 6 million that economists consider healthy.


Justices toss gas firm’s $18M environmental fine

The Supreme Court threw out an $18 million penalty Thursday against a natural gas company convicted of violating an environmental law.

The court voted 6-3 in favor of Texas-based Southern Union Co. in an appeal of a penalty imposed for its improper storage of mercury in a building in Pawtucket, R.I.


RIM: New Blackberry won’t have keyboard

TORONTO — The first BlackBerry device running Research In Motion’s new software will not have a physical keyboard, only a touch-screen keyboard.

Research in Motion Ltd. said Thursday that the new BlackBerry 10 software will be offered on devices with physical keyboards in the future.

RIM’s touch-screen offerings have largely flopped. The development will likely disappoint people who favor the keyboard over the touch screen and who have been waiting for the much-delayed new BlackBerrys.


Drugstore chain Rite Aid reports smaller losses

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Rite Aid Corp. reported a smaller loss for the first quarter than it had a year ago as revenue from the drugstore chain’s established stores continued to rise.

The operator of the nation’s third-biggest U.S. drugstore chain said Thursday it lost $30.7 million, or 3 cents per share, in the quarter that ended June 2. That compares to a net loss of $65.5 million, or 7 cents per share, in last year’s quarter.


Putin: Economic reform top priority for Russia

ST. PETERSBURG — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that reforming the economy is his top priority. Business leaders welcomed the commitment, but noted that such pledges need to be backed up by action.

In an address to investors and heads of global corporations, Mr. Putin confirmed his commitment to economic reforms that should make Russia a more attractive business destination.

“We have mapped out an entire program of large-scale reform, and it has received broad public support,” he said. “I see its fulfillment as the main goal of my tenure as president.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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