Business Highlights


Defying Fed hike, 30-year mortgage rate slips to 3.96 per cent

WASHINGTON (AP) — What Fed rate hike?

One week after the Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates slightly from record lows, the average on a 30-year fixed mortgage went the other way: It dipped to 3.96 per cent this week from 3.97 per cent last week, mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday.

The drop is a reminder that the Fed has only an indirect effect on long-term mortgage rates, which more closely track the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury. And that yield, in turn, tends to stay down as long as inflation remains low and investors keep buying Treasurys. The 10-year Treasury yield has declined slightly since the Fed’s hike last week.


Kiddie tablets ‘grow up’ as competition grows

NEW YORK (AP) — Kiddie tablets have grown up.

Tablets designed just for kids are getting more sophisticated as they face increased competition from regular tablets. The new products also have better screens, speedier chips and fashionably slim bodies. They let older children do more, yet hold their hands until they’re ready for unsupervised access.

Although many of the tablets were originally conceived as educational toys for kids as old as middle schoolers, they’ve been more popular with younger children. Older kids have been apt to reject them in favour of their parents’ tablet or smartphone.


Chocolate maker: We were honest about remelted chocolate

NEW YORK (AP) — A scandal is roiling the world of fancy chocolate: Did two brothers misleadingly sell remelted chocolate and sprout beards to cultivate a hipster appeal?

The headlines began after a site called published a series about Rick and Michael Mast, who have been toasted in food circles for their stylishly wrapped chocolate bars that can cost $10 a piece. The problem is that the brothers described their company as “bean-to-bar,” or chocolate made from scratch.

In the “Mast Brothers: What Lies Beneath the Beards,” outlined how the pair initially used melted industrial chocolate, referred to as couverture. The series concluded by calling the brothers the “Milli Vanilli of chocolate,” a reference the pop duo who lip synced their way to fame.


US applications for jobless aid dropped last week

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week, reflecting a job market that continues to look persistently healthy.

Applications for jobless aid declined 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 267,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The less volatile 4-week average ticked up slightly to 272,500.

Over the past 12 months, the number of people collecting benefits has dropped 7.7 per cent to 2.2 million.


Fiat Chrysler announces 2 recalls of nearly 500,000 SUVs

NEW YORK (AP) — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is recalling nearly 450,000 SUVs worldwide in two separate recalls that includes the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The automaker said Thursday about 353,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango SUVs with model years 2011-2012 are being recalled because wiring in the vanity mirror may overheat and create a fire hazard. No injuries or accidents were reported.

The second recall is for more than 93,000 Jeep Compass and Patriot SUVs with model year 2015. The company says it will inspect and fix a clamp that may be out of position. The out of position clamp may allow power steering fluid to leak, creating a possible fire hazard. The automaker says no injuries or accidents were reported.


APNewsBreak: EPA wants toxic Nevada mine on Superfund list

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Fifteen years after U.S. regulators started assessing damage and health risks at an abandoned Nevada copper mine, the Environmental Protection Agency is moving to designate the contaminated land a Superfund site, a step the state could still oppose.

Rural neighbours of the World War II-era mine that has leaked toxic chemicals for decades won a $19.5 million settlement in 2013 from companies they accused of covering up the contamination to drinking water wells near Yerington, about 65 miles southeast of Reno.


Puerto Rico power company reaches key restructuring deal

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s power company became the U.S. territory’s first debt-ridden agency to reach a key restructuring deal with investors.

The agreement forgives a portion of its $9 billion debt and would boost the company’s liquidity amid a deep economic crisis, officials said Thursday.

The Electric Power Authority, which is the largest U.S. public power utility, said the deal reached with 70 per cent of those who hold the agency’s debt means creditors and bond insurers will take a 15 per cent loss to forgive $600 million in debt. The agreement, which ends more than a year of negotiations, also provides a five-year delay for more than $700 million in debt payments.


The Dow Jones industrial average fell 50.44 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 17,552.17. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 3.30 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 2,060.99. The Nasdaq composite rose 2.56 points, less than 0.1 per cent, to 5,048.49.

U.S. crude futures gained 60 cents to close at $38.10 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, rose 53 cents to close at $37.89 a barrel in London. Heating oil fell 1.8 cents to close at $1.101 a gallon, wholesale gasoline rose 2.3 cents to $1.264 a gallon and natural gas rose 4.6 cents to $2.029 per 1,000 cubic feet.