Stocks surge after Bernanke allays taper fear
NEW YORK (AP) — Call it the Bernanke Boost.
The stock market, which has been marching higher for a week, got extra fuel Thursday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank will keep supporting the economy.
The Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor's 500 surged to all-time highs. And the yield on the 10-year Treasury note continued to decline as investors bought bonds. Stocks that benefit most from a continuation of low interest rates, such as homebuilders, notched some of the biggest gains.
Microsoft reshuffles company structure
NEW YORK (AP) — Microsoft Corp. is reshuffling its business in an attempt to promote faster innovation and a sharper focus on devices and services. The move by the world's largest software maker comes amid lukewarm response to the latest version of its flagship Windows operating system and a steady decline in demand for PCs as people turn to tablets and other mobile gadgets.
CEO Steve Ballmer said in a memo to employees Thursday that the changes mean the company is "rallying behind a single strategy" and organizing by function. While it has been widely anticipated, it's too early to tell how well the reorganization will help Microsoft compete with more nimble rivals like Apple and Google.
Worldwide shipments of personal computers fell 11 percent in the April-June period, according to data from research firms Gartner and IDC. Gartner Inc. said the PC industry is now experiencing the longest decline in its history, as shipments dropped for the fifth consecutive quarter. Analysts have blamed a massive consumer migration to tablets and other mobile devices for the falloff. But many observers also believe Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system —which comes installed on most new PCs— has turned consumers off.
Study: Youth attitudes shift in Great Recession
CHICAGO (AP) — Drew Miller clearly remembers the day his father was laid off.
Miller, now 25, was a freshman at an Ohio college, full of hope and ready to take on the world. But here was this "red flag ... a big wake-up call," he says. The prosperous years of childhood were over, and his future was likely to be bumpier than he'd expected.
Across the country, others of Miller's generation heard that same wake-up call as the Great Recession set in. But would it change them? And would the impact last?
The full effect won't be known for a while, of course. But a new analysis of a long-term survey of high school students provides an early glimpse at ways their attitudes shifted in the first years of this most recent economic downturn.
Among the findings: Young people showed signs of being more interested in conserving resources and a bit more concerned about their fellow human beings.
Retailers report strong gains for June
NEW YORK (AP) — June sales heated up for stores, in a sign that Americans likely will continue to spend during the important back-to-school shopping season.
U.S. retailers reported their strongest sales gains since January, as shoppers, enticed by warm weather and an improving economy, took advantage of summer discounts.
Revenue at stores opened at least a year - an industry measure of a retailer's health - rose 4.1 percent in June compared with the same month a year ago, according to a preliminary tally of 13 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers. The mall trade group had expected an increase of 3 to 3.5 percent.
US unemployment benefit applications rise to 360,000
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits rose 16,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, although the level remains consistent with steady hiring.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average increased 6,000 to 351,750.
The weekly applications data can be volatile in July because some automakers briefly shut down their factories to prepare for new models and many schools close. Those factors can create a temporary spike in layoffs.
Rate on 30-year mortgage at 2-year high: 4.51 percent
WASHINGTON (AP) — The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage rose this week to 4.51 percent, a two-year high. Rates have been rising on expectations that the Federal Reserve will slow its bond purchases this year.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average on the 30-year loan jumped from 4.29 percent the previous week. Just two months ago, it was 3.35 percent — barely above the record low of 3.31 percent.
The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage rose to 3.53 percent from 3.39 percent last week. That's the highest since August 2011.
RealtyTrac: Home repossessions declined in June
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fewer U.S. homes entered the foreclosure process or were repossessed by banks in June, the latest sign that the nation is shaking off its housing bust hangover.
Lenders initiated the foreclosure process on 57,286 homes last month, the lowest level for any month in 7½ years, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.
Foreclosure starts are on pace to reach roughly 800,000 this year, down from 1.1 million last year, the firm said.
US government reports $116.5 billion surplus in June
WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government on Thursday reported a rare surplus of $116.5 billion in June, the largest for a single month in five years. The gain kept the nation on track for its lowest annual deficit in five years.
The June surplus was due in part to $66.3 billion in dividend payments from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The mortgage giants were taken over by the government at the height of the 2008 financial crisis and are now repaying taxpayers for the support they received.
Through the first eight months of the budget year, the deficit has totaled $509.8 billion, according to the Treasury. That's nearly $400 billion lower than the same period last year.
Nokia unveils phone with powerful camera
NEW YORK (AP) — Nokia is unveiling a new phone with a powerful camera that promises sharper images, even in low light.
The Nokia Lumia 1020 was introduced Thursday at an event in New York. It will run Microsoft's Windows Phone system.
The 41-megapixel camera records more detail than other camera phones and even tops point-and-shoot cameras. More pixels mean more sensors for capturing the light that forms an image.
Although more expensive cameras with better lenses can take better images, those cameras aren't always with you. Nokia says the Lumia 1020 gives people the ability to take good pictures with a device they always carry.
Sprint launches 'guarantee' for unlimited plans
NEW YORK (AP) — Sprint is introducing a new wireless plan that guarantees new and existing subscribers unlimited voice, text and data plans, in a move to differentiate its service from rivals AT&T and Verizon.
Sprint Nextel Corp. said Thursday that the plan, called the "Sprint Unlimited Guarantee," offers unlimited data for $30 a month on smartphones and $10 per month on traditional phones. Voice and text cost $50 for the first line and less for additional phone lines.
Sprint, the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier, is now under the control of Japanese investment firm SoftBank. Softbank owns a 78 percent stake in Sprint after a $21.6 billion deal closed on Wednesday.
By The Associated Press=
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 169.26 points, or 1.1 percent, to 15,460.92. The Standard & Poor's 500 jumped 22.40 points, or, 1.4 percent, to 1,675.02. The Nasdaq composite rose 57.55 points, or 1.6 percent, to 3,578.30.
U.S. benchmark crude fell $1.61 to close at $104.91. Brent crude, which is used to price imported crude used by many U.S. refineries, fell 78 cents to $107.73.
Wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent to settle at $3.02 a gallon. Natural gas fell 7 cents to settle at $3.61 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil remained unchanged, settling at $3.00 a gallon.