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story.lead_photo.caption FILE- In this March 30, 2019, file photo the Dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is visible as cherry blossom trees bloom on the West Lawn in Washington. The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell to its lowest level since late 1969, a sign that employers are holding onto their workers despite signs of a slowing economy. Weekly applications for jobless aid fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 202,000, the Labor Department said Thursday, April 4. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, FIle)

Jobless-benefits sign-ups hit 29-year low

WASHINGTON -- The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell to its lowest level since late 1969, a sign that employers are holding onto their workers despite signs of a slowing economy.

Weekly applications for jobless aid fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 202,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That is the lowest since the week of December 6, 1969.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the drop to such a low number indicates that companies are cutting very few workers. That's a reassuring sign as other data, such as weak consumer and business spending, and sluggish growth overseas, point to slower U.S. growth this year.

A report Wednesday from payroll processor Automatic Data Processing found that businesses added just 129,000 jobs in March, down from 197,000 the previous month.

Still, economists expect that the government's March jobs report, to be released today, will show a solid rebound from the paltry 20,000 jobs gained in February.

-- The Associated Press

Trump studies Cain for 1 of 2 Fed spots

President Donald Trump said Herman Cain, the former pizza company executive who ran for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, is being vetted for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board.

Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday that Cain is in "good shape." Cain would fill one of two open seats on the board. The president plans to name Stephen Moore, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a longtime Trump supporter, for the other.

In Cain and Moore, Trump would place two political loyalists on the board of a central bank that has frequently crossed him. The president has repeatedly criticized Jerome Powell, his own appointee as Federal Reserve chairman, for raising interest rates, and Bloomberg News reported in December that Trump had even discussed firing him.

Cain in September co-founded a pro-Trump super-political action committee, America Fighting Back PAC, which features a photo of the president on its website and says: "We must protect Donald Trump and his agenda from impeachment."

Cain, who had a long corporate career, has previously worked in the Federal Reserve system. From 1992 to 1996, he served as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, as well as deputy chairman and then chairman.

He advocated for the U.S. to return to the gold standard during his presidential campaign and as recently as December 2017 defended higher interest rates, a position that contrasts with Trump's repeated criticisms of the Fed last year.

-- Bloomberg News

Entergy suit returning to Mississippi court

JACKSON, Miss. -- After more than 10 years of wrangling and delays in federal court, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and the state's largest private utility appear to be headed back to state court in a lawsuit where Hood alleges hundreds of thousands of customers were overcharged.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Thursday told lawyers that he's likely to send claims that Entergy Mississippi overcharged its customers back to Hinds County Chancery Court, pulling the plug on a trial that had already begun. Hood argues Entergy owes up to $2 billion in damages and interest to 447,000 Mississippi customers because it failed to buy cheaper electricity from third parties. Reeves said a written ruling could arrive as soon as today.

"I understand this case has been around for a while, but I can only imagine it will be around even longer if the court retains jurisdiction over this matter," Reeves said, according to the Clarion Ledger.

It's a surprising development in a high-stakes case that moved in recent months toward a bench trial that began Monday and was supposed to last for weeks. Reeves began openly questioning his jurisdiction to hear the case after opening arguments and kept interrupting the trial to ask lawyers for the state and the unit of New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. to discuss the issue. Finally, he asked both sides for fresh briefs and argument on the jurisdictional question, even though a previous federal judge had ruled the matter should stay in federal court.

-- The Associated Press

Mortgage rates slow to rebound this week

WASHINGTON -- U.S. long-term mortgage rates moved little this week after the key 30-year loan rate marked its steepest weekly drop in a decade the week before.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage ticked up to 4.08 percent from 4.06 percent -- which had plunged from 4.28 percent last week. The average rate on the benchmark loan stood at 4.40 percent a year ago.

The average rate this week for 15-year, fixed-rate home loans slipped to 3.56 percent from 3.57 percent last week.

The decline made purchasing a home a lot cheaper, and potential buyers have been rushing to take advantage of the cheaper borrowing costs.

Lower mortgage rates, slowing home price increases and a pickup in the number of available homes appear to be rejuvenating home sales after a slowdown last year.

An index measuring applications for mortgage loans soared 18.6 percent in the week ended March 29 from a week earlier, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

-- The Associated Press

Motel 6 settles privacy suit for $12M

SEATTLE -- The national chain Motel 6 agreed Thursday to pay $12 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Washington state claiming names of hotel guests were improperly provided to immigration officials for two years, the state attorney general said.

The information led to targeted investigations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, who went after people with Hispanic-sounding names, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said.

Some people staying at seven Motel 6 locations in the state were detained or deported, he said.

"Motel 6's actions tore families apart and violated the privacy rights of tens of thousands of Washingtonians," Ferguson said in a statement. "Our resolution holds Motel 6 accountable for illegally handing over guests' private information without a warrant."

The company said in an email that it will enforce its guest privacy policy, which prohibits the sharing of guest information except in cases where a judicially enforceable warrant or subpoena is present or local law requires the release of the information.

-- The Associated Press

Business on 04/05/2019

Print Headline: Jobless-benefits sign-ups hit 29-year low Trump studies Cain for 1 of 2 Fed spots Entergy suit returning to Mississippi court Mortgage rates slow to rebound this week Motel 6 settles privacy suit ...

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