June sales heated up for stores. Costco, Fred's and Stein Mart were among the retailers that reported their strongest sales gains since January, as shoppers, enticed by warm weather and an improving economy, took advantage of summer discounts. Revenue at stores opened at least a year rose 3.9 percent in June compared with the same month a year ago, according to a preliminary tally of 12 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers. The mall trade group had expected an increase of 3 to 3.5 percent. The data, released Thursday, offer positive signs for the back-to-school season, which is the second-biggest shopping period, behind the winter holidays.
30-year mortgage rate at 2-year high
The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage rose this week to 4.51 percent, a two-year high. Rates have been rising on expectations that the Federal Reserve will slow its bond purchases this year. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average on the 30-year loan jumped from 4.29 percent the previous week. Just two months ago, it was 3.35 percent. The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage rose to 3.53 percent from 3.39 percent last week. That's the highest since August 2011.
Jobless claims rise in volatile season
U.S. unemployment benefit applications rose 16,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, although the level remains consistent with steady hiring. The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average increased 6,000 to 351,750. The weekly applications data can be volatile in early July because some automakers briefly shut down their factories to prepare for new models and many schools close. Those factors can create a temporary spike in layoffs.
Fewer enter foreclosure process
Fewer U.S. homes entered the foreclosure process or were repossessed by banks in June, the latest sign that the nation is shaking off its housing bust hangover. Lenders initiated the foreclosure process on 57,286 homes last month, the lowest level for any month in 7˝ years, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday. Foreclosure starts are on pace to reach roughly 800,000 this year, down from 1.1 million last year, the firm said.