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Jobless-aid recipients fewest since '73

WASHINGTON -- More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but the increase was modest and came after applications fell to the lowest level in 44 years the previous week.

The Labor Department said Thursday that applications for unemployment aid rose 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 233,000. Last week's figure was the lowest since 1973. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 239,500.

The number of people receiving benefits slipped 3,000 to 1.89 million, the lowest level since December 1973.

Damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria are still making it difficult for residents of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to file claims, the government said. That suggests applications may rise a bit in the coming weeks.

The data signal that employers are optimistic about the business outlook and are holding on to their workers. Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Earlier this month, the government said the unemployment rate is at a 16-year low of 4.2 percent.

-- The Associated Press

Month's pending home sales gauge flat

WASHINGTON -- The number of people who signed contracts to buy homes was flat in September, reflecting an ongoing nationwide shortage of homes being listed for sale.

The National Association of Realtors said its pending home sales index was 106 in September, the same as August's revised number. It's the index's lowest point since a 104.7 reading in January of 2015 and 3.5 percent lower than a year ago. It has fallen on an annual basis five of the past six months.

Regionally, the South saw a decline of 2.3 percent while the Northeast, Midwest and West all saw slight upticks. However, all four regional indexes are down at least 2 percent from a year ago, with the South down the most at 5 percent.

Homebuyers -- particularly those searching for homes on the lower end of the price scale -- are being stifled by rising home values, a limited selection of properties on the market and a shortage of savings. First-time buyers in September were 29 percent of sales, the lowest share in two years, the Realtors said.

Pending sales contracts are a barometer of future purchases. Sales are typically completed a month or two after a contract is signed.

-- The Associated Press

Rates rise for 15-, 30-year mortgages

WASHINGTON -- The costs of borrowing to buy a home increased slightly this week, but U.S. mortgage rates are still near relative lows.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., said the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose to 3.94 percent from 3.88 percent last week. At this time last year, the benchmark rate was 3.47 percent. The historic average was roughly 6 percent.

Long-term home loan rates tend to track the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes. The interest charged on 10-year Treasury notes has risen since early September.

The rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, popular with homeowners who are refinancing, rose to 3.25 percent from 3.19 percent last week. A year ago, the 15-year rate was 2.78 percent.

-- The Associated Press

Report: GE studies locomotive-unit exit

General Electric Co. is studying an exit from its locomotive business, one of the 125-year-old company's oldest operations, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Boston-based company is studying options such as taking on a partner, spinning the division off or selling it, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

GE's new chief executive officer, John Flannery, pledged to unload $20 billion in assets last week as he seeks to streamline the portfolio. GE has tumbled more than 30 percent this year, the biggest decline on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The locomotive-manufacturing unit, known as GE Transportation, is led by Jamie Miller, who is set to take over as the parent company's chief financial officer next month.

GE declined to comment. The shares fell 18 cents to close Thursday at $21.32.

-- Bloomberg News

Tesla target of union harassment claim

The United Auto Workers filed an unfair labor practices claim against Tesla Inc. that says the company harassed, intimidated and eventually fired some workers who had supported unionizing.

The claim was filed Wednesday with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging Tesla used a recent round of layoffs to dismiss some workers who openly supported the union, according to an emailed statement from union organizers. Tesla said earlier this month it laid off employees for performance reasons and didn't say how many were affected.

Employees at Tesla's factory in Fremont, Calif., started working with the union earlier this year to seek assistance with forming a union.

A Tesla spokesman didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

-- Bloomberg News

Sales stale for Budweiser-maker in 3Q

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV's sales in the United States fell 5.6 percent in the third quarter and market share slipped as drinkers turn to locally brewed beers. The stock fell as much as 3.2 percent, even as AB InBev pledged to increase savings from its $104 billion takeover of SABMiller PLC.

"We can't remember a quarter as bad" in the U.S., Trevor Stirling, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, wrote in a note to investors. "The underlying business remains incredibly weak."

The so-called premium beer category, which includes Budweiser, is under growing pressure in the U.S., Chief Financial Officer Felipe Dutra said during a call with reporters. While the company is investing $2 billion to try to reignite growth, consumers are increasingly seeking out craft and regional brews -- mirroring a broader consumer shift toward niche labels in categories ranging from coffee to condiments.

Leuven, Belgium-based AB InBev said sales were reduced by hurricanes that disrupted its business in Texas and Florida, echoing companies like consumer-goods giant Unilever and eyeglass-makers Essilor International SA and Luxottica Group SpA in flagging a loss of sales because of the storms. Dutra said he expected the brewer to bounce back with a "very strong" fourth quarter.

The retail value of Budweiser sales in the U.S. fell 17 percent, to $3.3 billion, from 2010 through 2016, according to data tracker IWSR. Bud Light was down 14 percent, to $7.4 billion.

"We can do a better job on Bud Light," Chief Executive Officer Carlos Brito said on a call with analysts, adding that in a more fragmented market where craft brews are gaining ground, even some of AB InBev's own beers are putting pressure on the company's big brands.

-- Bloomberg News

Business on 10/27/2017

Print Headline: Jobless-aid recipients fewest since '73 Month's pending home sales gauge flat Rates rise for 15-, 30-year mortgages Report: GE studies locomotive-unit exit Tesla target of union harassment claim S...

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