published Friday, May 16th, 2014

Business Briefs: Mortgage rates declined again

Mortgage rates declined again

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages declined this week for a third straight week. The low rates could give a boost to the spring home-buying season, which has gotten off to a slow start.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for a 30-year loan eased to 4.20 percent from 4.21 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage fell to 3.29 percent from 3.32 percent.

Mortgage rates have risen nearly a full percentage point since hitting record lows about a year ago.


Jobless claims lowest in 7 years

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in seven years last week, a sign the job market is steadily improving.

Weekly unemployment benefit applications dropped 24,000 to 297,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's the fewest since May 12, 2007. The four week average, a less volatile measure, dipped 2,000 to 323,250.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the decline is evidence that employers are cutting fewer jobs. Weekly applications topped 650,000 in March 2009, during the Great Recession.

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