Business news briefs: Weekly unemployment applications decrease
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Weekly applications for unemployment aid declined last week by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 387,000, the Labor Department said. That's down from an upwardly revised 389,000. A more telling sign of the trend in unemployment benefit applications is the four-week average, which smooths week-to-week fluctuations. That rose by 3,500 to 386,250, the highest level since December.
"After a fairly substantial period of constantly lower jobless claims, a new, more unwelcome trend higher has taken hold," said Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist at BTIG LLC, in an email. "A meaningful pickup in monthly job additions looks unlikely."
Facebook Inc.'s audience in the U.S. declined in May while the amount of time users spent on the social-networking website rose, according to ComScore Inc. The number of visitors to Facebook.com dropped less than 1 percent to 158 million in May from April, Reston, Va.-based ComScore said in an emailed statement. Visitors in April also fell less than 1 percent from March.
The average amount of time visitors spent on the site rose less than 1 percent to 381 minutes in May from a month ago, ComScore said. That came after a decline of 3.1 percent in April.
The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales of previously occupied homes dropped 1.5 percent in May from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.55 million. Sales have risen 9.6 percent from a year ago. Still, the pace has fallen since nearly touching a two-year high in April and remains well below the 6 million that economists consider healthy. First-time buyers, who are critical to a recovery, made up just 34 percent of sales in May. In healthy market, the number is more than 40 percent.
The average U.S. rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage fell this week to a record low for the seventh time in eight weeks. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average on the 30-year loan dropped to 3.66 percent. That's down from 3.71 percent last week and the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s. The average rate on the 15-year mortgage, a popular refinancing option, declined to 2.95 percent. That's down from 2.98 percent last week and just above the record 2.94 percent reached two weeks ago.
The Conference Board said Thursday that its index of leading economic indicators rose 0.3 percent last month, after a 0.1 percent drop in April. April's drop was the first in seven months. The index is now at 95.8. The last time it was higher was June 2008, six months into the Great Recession. Prior to the recession, the index routinely topped 100. Seven of the ten components of the Conference Board's index rose last month. The biggest drivers of the increase in the index were building permits, the spread between short-term and long-term interest rates, and an increase in new manufacturing orders.
First Published June 22, 2012 12:00 am