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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, file photo, a line of unsold 2013 Chargers sits at a Dodge dealership in Littleton, Colo. Fiat Chrysler is recalling more than 1.6 million vehicles worldwide to replace Takata front passenger air bag inflators that can be dangerous. The recall covers the 2010 through 2016 Jeep Wrangler SUV, the 2010 Ram 3500 pickup and 4500/5500 Chassis Cab trucks, the 2010 and 2011 Dodge Dakota pickup, the 2010 through 2014 Dodge Challenger muscle car, the 2011 through 2015 Dodge Charger sedan, and the 2010 through 2015 Chrysler 300 sedan. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

U.S. mortgage rates hit nine-month low

WASHINGTON -- U.S. long-term mortgage rates continued to fall this week, reaching their lowest levels in nine months.

The decline in home borrowing rates in recent weeks has been a spur to prospective home buyers, reflected in a spike in applications for mortgages. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage dipped to 4.45 percent this week from 4.51 percent last week.

Rates remain far above last year's levels, however. The key 30-year rate averaged 3.99 percent a year ago.

The average rate for 15-year fixed-rate loans fell to 3.89 percent from 3.99 percent last week.

The recent easing of rates has come during steep declines in the stock market and tumbling interest rates on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note -- which influences long-term mortgage rates.

Mortgage applications jumped 23.5 percent in the week ended Jan. 4 from a week earlier, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Experts say the rebound in applications followed a slower-than-usual holiday period, and the slide in mortgage rates also prompted a flurry of refinancing, especially by borrowers with larger mortgage loans.

-- The Associated Press

Fiat Chrysler issues recall over air bags

DETROIT -- Fiat Chrysler is recalling more than 1.6 million vehicles worldwide to replace Takata front passenger air bag inflators that can be dangerous.

Takata inflators can explode with too much force, hurling shrapnel into drivers and passengers. At least 23 people have died from the problem worldwide and hundreds have been injured.

The recall covers the 2010 through 2016 Jeep Wrangler SUV, the 2010 Ram 3500 pickup and 4500/5500 Chassis Cab trucks, the 2010 and 2011 Dodge Dakota pickup, the 2010 through 2014 Dodge Challenger muscle car, the 2011 through 2015 Dodge Charger sedan, and the 2010 through 2015 Chrysler 300 sedan.

The recall includes 1.4 million vehicles in the United States. About 10 million inflators are being recalled this year. Already Ford, Honda and Toyota have issued recalls in the latest round.

Fiat Chrysler owners will be notified by letter and dealers will replace the inflators. The company says it's not aware of any injuries in vehicles involved in this recall, but says it has plenty of replacement parts and is urging people to get the repairs done.

-- The Associated Press

Hardware distributor reported to close

GREENWOOD, Miss. -- A Mississippi Delta hardware distributor is closing, laying off 54 people.

The Greenwood Commonwealth reported Wednesday that Hardware Distribution Warehouses, based in Marshall, Texas, is going out of business. The company has already terminated about half its employees, and will close once it liquidates its inventory.

The company is also closing its headquarters and warehouse in Texas.

Vice President Jimmy Horne says workers aren't being paid a severance and wouldn't say when benefits ended.

Hardware Distribution Warehouses was formed in 1994 through the merger of three distributors, including Henderson & Baird of Greenwood. Including its predecessor, the company operated for 129 years in Greenwood.

The company distributed hardware and building materials to 2,000 retailers across 11 states, including Arkansas, according to the company website.

-- The Associated Press

Georgia-Pacific cuts nearly 700 mill jobs

BATON ROUGE -- Georgia-Pacific says consumers aren't buying as much copy paper anymore, forcing it to lay off nearly 700 people at a Louisiana mill.

Company spokesman Kelly Ferguson said Thursday that meeting the demand for office paper isn't a viable business long term as society continues to shift toward electronic communications.

The Advocate reports that around 300 people will continue working at the Port Hudson mill, producing toilet tissue and paper towels. The company says it will permanently shut down its office paper production assets, wood yard, pulp mill and most of its energy-generating complex by mid-March.

The newspaper says Georgia-Pacific will work with union leaders and salaried staff on how to best shut down the divisions and find work for employees at other company-owned facilities.

-- The Associated Press

Revised Sears plan adds more severance

Eddie Lampert's revised plan to save Sears includes more severance for its workers, a move that could head off a debacle like the collapse of Toys R Us that left employees empty-handed and lenders being criticized.

It's still unknown if the plan from Lampert's ESL Investments will be accepted and whether Sears Holdings and its hundreds of stores will avoid a shutdown. But Lampert's repeated emphasis on saving jobs and protecting workers could give him an edge in his bankruptcy court contest with liquidators who would close the retailer.

"If you're assessing multiple bids, and one is liquidating and getting rid of 50,000 jobs, and the other is keeping the jobs, you're going to look to the one that saves the jobs," said Matthew Mason, of retail advisory and restructuring firm Conway MacKenzie.

In his offer valued at more than $5 billion, Lampert promised to provide up to $43 million of additional severance and jobs for as many as 50,000 employees.

-- Bloomberg News

Study: Legal pot hasn't hurt liquor sales

It's been a persistent notion as marijuana restrictions across the U.S. ease: Marijuana is bad for the alcohol industry because consumers who have access to legal cannabis drink less.

But the Distilled Spirits Council, which represents companies such as Bacardi Ltd., Diageo PLC and Constellation Brands Inc., said Thursday that per-capita alcohol sales in Washington, Oregon and Colorado, the three longest-standing legal recreational weed markets in the U.S., haven't been hurt by legalization.

"There's been a lot of erroneous information," said Chris Swonger, the group's chief executive officer. "We haven't seen any impact in the states we looked at."

Using tax receipts and shipment data, the group found that spirits sales have risen 7.6 percent in Colorado since legal sales began in 2014, while the gain was 5.4 percent in Washington, where sales began the same year. Those liquor sales trends are roughly in line with the national average, according to David Ozgo, the council's chief economist.

Ozgo said that reports indicating alcohol sales will be crimped by legal weed have mainly been based on survey data, with consumers telling pollsters they would drink less.

-- Bloomberg News

Business on 01/11/2019

Print Headline: Mississippi hardware distributor to close U.S. mortgage rates hit nine-month low Fiat Chrysler issues recall over air bags Hardware distributor reported to close Georgia-Pacific cuts nearly 700 mi...

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