National news roundup: BlackBerry's rebound effort includes layoffs

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Posted: Friday, July 26, 2013 12:00 am

BlackBerry has given layoff notices to 250 workers at its product testing facility in Waterloo, Ontario, where the global smartphone company is based. The employees supported the company's manufacturing, research and development efforts. BlackBerry said Thursday that the cuts were part of the next stage of its turnaround plan to increase efficiencies and scale its company correctly for new opportunities in mobile computing.

Mortgage rates down again

Average rates on U.S. fixed mortgages fell for the second straight week, a welcome sign for homebuyers hoping to lock in lower rates that had spiked earlier this month. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average on the 30-year loan fell to 4.31 percent. That's down from 4.37 percent last week but nearly a full percentage point higher than in early May. The rate reached a two-year high of 4.51 percent two weeks ago. The average on the 15-year fixed loan declined to 3.39 percent, down from 3.41 percent last week.

Dow Chemical looks to redeem stock held by Berkshire

Dow Chemical Co. said its prospects have improved for redeeming $4 billion in preferred stock held by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Kuwait's sovereign wealth fund after interest rates climbed. “As interest rates tend to go upward, the potential premium that we would need to pay to retire those decreases,” Dow Chief Financial Officer Bill Weideman said Thursday. “Things are moving in the right direction from that standpoint. You can be rest assured that we'll be looking at different opportunities there.” Dow Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Liveris has been seeking to reduce debt after receiving $2.19 billion from Petrochemical Industries Co. of Kuwait as compensation for the cancellation of a joint venture more than four years ago.

Durable goods orders rise 4.2 percent

Orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods rose in June, bolstered by higher aircraft demand and more spending that signals investment plans by businesses. The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders for durable goods increased 4.2 percent last month. That followed a 5.2 percent gain in May, which was revised higher. Commercial aircraft orders, which are volatile from month to month, jumped 31.4 percent. Excluding autos and airplanes, orders were unchanged. Orders that signal companies' investment plans increased 0.7 percent.

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