Business Briefs: Retail sales continued in September

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Sales continued in Sept., but a little more slowly

Americans may have slowed their spending in September after splurging during the start of the busy back-to-school shopping season in the month before. But most importantly, they were still spending. September sales rose 3.9 percent -- a slowdown from the 6-percent rise in August -- as 22 retailers reported mixed results, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. Only a handful of merchants representing about 13 percent of the retail industry report monthly revenue. And that list is dwindling: Target Corp. on Thursday said that it will no longer report monthly figures starting next year.

Buchanan Ingersoll to open Charlotte office

Law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney said it plans to open an office in Charlotte, N.C., this month. The office will be staffed with three lawyers who specialize in banking and finance. Mike Wielechowski, a Buchanan shareholder who will head the office, formerly worked in Pittsburgh for PNC Bank. The Charlotte location will be Buchanan's 15th office.

Labor Dept. will offer help to RG Steel employees

The U.S. Department of Labor announced a $450,777 grant to provide training and other employment-related services to about 180 workers affected by the bankruptcy of RG Steel. The grant covers workers at four former RG Steel plants in Ohio, two mills in West Virginia, and employees at a Pennsylvania plant operated by Kinder-Morgan, one of the former steel producer's suppliers.

Jobless applications rose; average remains steady

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose to a seasonally adjusted 367,000, a level consistent with only modest hiring. Weekly applications increased last week by 4,000 from the previous week's level of 363,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The previous week was revised higher from an initial reading of 359,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, was unchanged at 375,000.

Drop in aircraft demand hits factory orders in Aug.

Orders to U.S. factories fell in August from July, mostly because of a sharp drop in volatile aircraft orders. The Commerce Department said Thursday that factory orders dropped 5.2 percent in August, the biggest decline in more than three years. The loss was largely because demand for commercial aircraft plunged 102 percent. That pulled down orders for long-lasting manufactured goods by 13.2 percent. Orders for non-durable goods rose 2.2 percent.

Facebook reaches 1 billion, most outside U.S., Canada

More than a billion people now log into Facebook each month to check up on old friends, tag photos of new ones and post about politics, religion, cats or what their kids are doing. Most of them -- 81 percent -- live outside of the U.S. and Canada. And millions of them are not actual people. Facebook acknowledged in August that 8.7 percent of its then-955 million users may be duplicate or false accounts. At that rate, as many as 87 million accounts are fake.

Average mortgage rates fall again to record lows

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell to fresh record lows for the second straight week. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan dropped to 3.36 percent. That's down from last week's rate of 3.40 percent, which was the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s. The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, dipped to 2.69 percent, down from last week's record low of 2.73 percent.

Global food prices rose to highest in six months

World food prices rose in September to the highest in six months as dairy and meat producers passed on higher feed costs to consumers, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization said Thursday.

Also in business ...

Google is broadening job cuts from its Motorola Mobility unit outside the U.S. and will take $390 million in severance costs and other charges related to the layoffs, the company said Thursday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. ... Honda says it is recalling more than 820,000 model year 2002-03 Civic cars and model year 2004-05 Pilot SUVs because the headlights can fail.

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