Business Briefs – January 28, 2016

Fewer People Seek Jobless Aid, Sign of Stable Job Market

WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week, a sign that employers aren’t cutting jobs in response to global economic weakness and sharp stock market drops.

Weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 278,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped 2,250 to 283,000. The number of Americans receiving aid rose 49,000 to 2.27 million. That’s still 4.5 percent lower than a year ago.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, and the decline suggests that businesses remain confident enough in future economic growth to hold onto their staffs.

Amazon Profit Falls Short

SEATTLE (AP) – Amazon shares tumbled in aftermarket trading Thursday after the e-commerce company said its profit more than doubled, but still fell well short of analyst expectations.

Amazon’s strategy has long been to invest most of the money it makes back into its businesses. After operating at or near a loss for years, it has finally also demonstrated the ability to turn a consistent profit recently.

Yet it wasn’t able to match investor expectations in the fourth quarter. The Seattle company’s net income more than doubled to $482 million, or $1 per share, from $214 million, or 45 cents per share last year. But that fell far short of the $1.55 analysts expected, according to FactSet.

 

Average U.S. Rate on 30-Year Mortgage Falls to 3.79 Percent

WASHINGTON (AP) – Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week for a fourth straight week amid persisting turmoil in stock markets and global economic worries.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage slipped to 3.79 percent from 3.81 percent a week earlier. That means it stays below the symbolically significant 4 percent level. The rate has increased from its 3.66 percent average a year ago but remains well below its historic average of 6 percent.

The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages declined to 3.07 percent from 3.10 percent.

6 Brokers Cleared of Market Rate-Rigging in UK

LONDON (AP) – A British court on Thursday cleared six brokers of trying to fix the benchmark interest rate known as Libor, the London interbank offered rate.

The six men had been accused of helping convicted banker Tom Hayes manipulate the Libor rate — the key rate that banks use to borrow money from each other — over four years.

Hayes was sentenced to 14 years in prison last year for manipulating the rate while working at UBS and Citigroup between 2006 and 2010. He was the first to be convicted by a British jury of Libor rigging, but he said he was made a scapegoat for a common practice.

Microsoft’s Big Windows 10 Push Is Part of Broader Strategy

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Microsoft’s aggressive campaign to promote the latest version of its flagship software has already led to the deployment of Windows 10 on more than 200 million devices since its release last summer. It’s also part of a multi-pronged strategy that analysts credit with contributing to the early stages of a financial turnaround, as evidenced by Microsoft’s latest earnings report on Thursday.

The Redmond, Washington-based tech company reported nearly $5 billion in profit on nearly $24 billion in sales for the year-end quarter of 2015. Revenue was down 10 percent from a year ago, but after adjusting for deferred revenue, the numbers were better than Wall Street analysts expected.