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Business Digest: Jobless claims at lowest level since 1973


ECONOMY

Jobless claims at lowest level since 1973

WASHINGTON — Just 223,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, fewest in nearly 44 years.

The Labor Department says unemployment claims dropped by 19,000 from 242,000 the previous week to the lowest level since March 1973. The four-week average, which is less volatile, fell by 6,250 to 234,250, lowest since April 1973.

Overall, 2.07 million Americans are collecting unemployment benefits, down more than 7 percent from a year ago.

Unemployment claims are a proxy for layoffs. They have come in below 300,000 a week for two straight years, the longest such streak since 1970. The low level of claims suggests that employers are confident enough in the economy to be holding on to staff. Employers added a healthy 227,000 jobs in January. The unemployment rate is 4.8 percent, close to what economists consider full employment.

WALL STREET

U.S. market pulls back from record highs

Banks and other financial companies led a slide in U.S. stocks Thursday, erasing some of the gains from a day earlier, when indexes soared to their latest record highs.

Materials and industrials companies also fell sharply. Energy stocks declined along with the price of crude oil. Utilities and phone company stocks bucked the broader market slide.Traders had an eye on the Federal Reserve amid growing speculation this week that the central bank will raise interest rates again later this month.

“You have the market wondering if the economy is in fact strong enough for a rate hike at this point,” said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial. “After the run-up we had yesterday, this is a good excuse for the market to pause.”

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 112.58 points, or 0.5 percent, to 21,002.97. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 14.04 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,381.92. The Nasdaq composite index slid 42.81 points, or 0.7 percent, to 5,861.22.

The stock market was coming off its biggest single-day gain in nearly four months.

MORTGAGE INDUSTRY

Average rate on 30-year loan falls to 4.1%

WASHINGTON — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week, breaking a holding pattern that prevailed for more than a month.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on 30-year, fixed-rate loans declined to 4.10 percent from 4.16 percent last week. The benchmark rate stood at 3.64 percent a year ago and averaged 3.65 percent through 2016, the lowest level in records dating to 1971.

The rate on 15-year mortgages slipped to 3.32 percent from 3.37 percent last week.

Mortgage rates fell at the start of the year after rising for nine straight weeks following President Donald Trump’s election in November. Rates have moved little in recent weeks after the initial decline.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week.

AUTOMAKERS

Nissan faces safety fine in Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss. — A federal workplace safety agency wants to fine Nissan Motor Co. more than $21,000, saying the company’s Mississippi plant should have better trained a maintenance worker who lost three fingers in July.

The citations were issued weeks before a Saturday rally to support unionization by the United Auto Workers, where pro-union speakers are likely to denounce the company’s safety record. Nissan, though, defends its safety record as “significantly” better than average.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in proposed citations Feb. 10, said the company failed because the worker didn’t know how to disable the line before he tried to work on it. OSHA also demanded that Nissan install buzzers and lights that would warn workers before a conveyor line started.

Nissan spokesman Brian Brockman said the company hasn’t decided if it will appeal the ruling.



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