The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits remained near the lowest level in more than five years last week.
First-time applications for benefits fell 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 331,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, inched up 750 to 331,250 after falling to its lowest level since November 2007 the previous week.
Applications for unemployment benefits reflect layoffs. At the depths of the recession in March 2009, they numbered 670,000. The average has fallen 10 percent this year. All told, nearly 4.5 million people received unemployment benefits in the week that ended Aug. 10, the latest period for which figures are available. That's about 30,000 more than in the previous week.
Mortgate rates dip to 4.51%
Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages declined this week but stayed close to their highest levels in two years.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year loan fell to 4.51 percent. That's down from 4.58 percent last week, the highest since July 2011. The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage dipped to 3.54 percent from 3.60 percent, also the highest since July 2011.
Rates have risen more than a full percentage point since May when Chairman Ben Bernanke first signaled that the Federal Reserve might reduce its bond purchases later this year.
Nasdaq takes some blame for breakdown
NEW YORK (AP) — Nasdaq OMX Group says a three-hour trading halt last week was partly the result of issues within the company's control.
In a statement released Thursday, Nasdaq blamed “a confluence of unprecedented events” that overwhelmed the exchange's system for handling price information. It said high-speed trading played no role in the incident.
Economy grew at 2.5% rate in spring
The U.S. economy grew at a 2.5 percent annual rate from April through June, much faster than previously estimated. The steep revision was largely because U.S. companies exported more goods and imports declined. The Commerce Department said second-quarter growth was sharply higher than the initial 1.7 percent rate it reported last month. And the growth this spring was more than double the 1.1 percent rate from January through March. The improvement in the trade deficit helped offset weaker government spending.
Amazon takes sales tax fight to Supreme Court
Amazon.com Inc. is taking its tax fight to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the justices to block a demand from New York authorities that it collect a sales tax on goods sold in that state.
The online retail giant hired Theodore B. Olson, former solicitor general of the U.S., to represent the company in its petition to have the case reviewed by the court.
The filing, made last week, seeks to persuade the court to consider the constitutionality of states' collecting taxes from companies that don't have physical operations such as warehouses in those states.
The company has long relied on a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that gave retailers a pass on having to collect sales in states where they don't have a physical presence.
Vodafone in talks to sell Verizon Wireless stake
LONDON (AP) — Britain's Vodafone PLC, one of the world's largest cellphone companies, confirmed Thursday that it was talking to Verizon Communications about selling its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless, the No. 1 mobile carrier in the U.S.
Verizon Communications owns the other 55 percent.
Analysts have suggested that Verizon wants to pay around $100 billion for Vodafone's stake, although reports have said that U.K. group is pressing for as much as $130 billion.
Meanwhile Vodafone's London-listed share price rose 8.8 percent to 2.06 pounds.
At the same time, Vodafone is pushing ahead with a takeover bid for Germany's biggest cable operator.
U.S. banks earn record $42.2 billion in 2nd quarter
WASHINGTON (AP) U.S. banks earned more from April through June than during any quarter on record, aided by a steep drop in losses from bad loans.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. says the banking industry earned $42.2 billion in the second quarter, up 23 percent from the second quarter of 2012. About 54 percent of U.S. banks reported improved earnings from a year earlier.
Banks' losses on loans tumbled 30.7 percent from a year earlier to $14.2 billion, the lowest in six years. And bank lending increased 1 percent from the first quarter.
Still, the report shows that the largest banks continue to drive the industry's profits while smaller institutions have struggled. Banks with assets exceeding $10 billion make up only 1.5 percent of U.S. banks. Yet they accounted for about 82 percent of the industry's earnings in the April-June quarter.