Business Briefs – November 3, 2016

Applications for Jobless Aid Hit Highest Level Since August

WASHINGTON (AP) – More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but jobless claims remain at levels that suggest most workers enjoy job security.

The Labor Department says claims for unemployment aid rose by 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000, highest since early August. Still, claims came in below 300,000 for the 87th straight week, longest such streak since 1970 when the workforce was much smaller.

The less-volatile four-week average rose 4,750 to 257,750.

U.S. Productivity Up at 3.1 Percent Rate in Third Quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) – The productivity of American workers rose in the July-September quarter at the fastest pace in two years, while labor costs slowed.

Productivity increased at a 3.1 percent rate in the third quarter, the Labor Department reported Thursday. It was a significant improvement from the previous three quarters when productivity had fallen. Unit labor costs edged up a modest 0.3 percent in the third quarter, compared to a 3.9 percent jump in the second quarter.

U.S. Factory Orders Up Slight 0.3 Percent in September

WASHINGTON (AP) – Orders to U.S. factories increased a modest amount in September even though a key category that tracks business investment plans fell by the largest amount since February.

Factory orders edged up a slight 0.3 percent in September following a 0.4 percent advance in August, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Orders in a category that serves as a proxy for business investment fell 1.3 percent, reversing a 1.2 percent increase in August. It was the biggest decline in the investment category since a 2.1 percent plunge in February.

Average U.S. 30-Year Mortgage Rate Rises to 3.54 Percent

WASHINGTON (AP) – Long-term U.S. mortgage rates jumped this week, reaching their highest levels since late June amid indications of strength in the economy.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.54 percent from 3.47 percent last week. Rates remain near historically low levels, however. The benchmark 30-year rate is down from 3.87 percent a year ago. Its all-time low was 3.31 percent in November 2012.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, popular with homeowners who are refinancing, increased to 2.84 percent from 2.78 percent.

Fannie Mae Posts $3.2B Profit in 3Q; Paying $3B Dividend

WASHINGTON (AP) – Mortgage giant Fannie Mae reported net income of $3.2 billion from July through September, up from $2 billion a year earlier, as its losses declined on investments it uses to hedge against interest rate swings.

The third-quarter results released Thursday marked the 19th straight profitable quarter for the government-controlled company.

Washington-based Fannie Mae said it will pay a dividend of $3 billion to the U.S. Treasury next month. With that payment, Fannie will have paid a total $154.4 billion in dividends.

SEC Probes Wells Fargo, Bank Ups Legal Reserves Fund

NEW YORK (AP) – Wells Fargo has confirmed that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating its sales practices, and revealed that the bank has almost doubled funds set aside to deal with legal problems.

The bank said in a regulatory filing Thursday that the SEC has joined numerous other agencies and states with ongoing probes. That’s on top of class-action lawsuits filed against the bank by investors, its former employees and customers.

Wells Fargo has been under fire since it was learned that employees, pushed to the limit by lofty sales goals, opened as many as 2 million bank and credit card accounts without customer authorization.

Starbucks Profit Up 23 Percent as Sales Rise

NEW YORK (AP) – Starbucks reported a 23 percent rise in profit in its fourth quarter, thanks to rising sales at its coffee shops and benefiting from an extra week in the period. The company’s results beat Wall Street expectations, and it announced a 25 percent increase in its dividend.

The Seattle-based company reported net income of $801 million, or 54 cents per share, in its fiscal fourth quarter. Adjusted earnings came to 56 cents per share, beating the 55 cents per share analysts expected. Revenue rose 16 percent to $5.71 billion, beating the $5.69 billion analysts expected.

Starbucks will pay shareholders a dividend of 25 cents next month, up from 20 cents.