Jobless claims drop to eight-year low

The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits dropped last week to the lowest level in more than eight years, reflecting what could be a pickup in automaking during a typically slow time of year. Jobless claims fell by 19,000 to 284,000 in the week ended July 19, the fewest since February 2006, according to a Labor Department report. Applications can be volatile in July because of auto plant shutdowns, even as state data showed nothing inconsistent with prior years.

New home sales drop in June

Sales of new U.S. homes plunged in June, a sign that real estate continues to be a weak spot in the economy. New home sales fell 8.1 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 406,000, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The report also revised down the May sales rate to 442,000 from 504,000. Buying of new homes fell 20 percent in the Northeast, followed by less extreme declines in the Midwest, South and West. The modest sales caused the inventory of new homes on the market to increase to 5.8 months, the highest since October 2011. The median sale price was $273,500, up 5.3 percent over the past 12 months. Home sales had been improving through the middle of 2013, only to stumble over the past 12 months due to a mix of rising prices, higher mortgage rates and ­meager wage growth.

Boom times for the airlines

The U.S. airline industry has indeed had a gangbuster ­second quarter. Net income excluding one-time charges and special items has topped $4 billion. American Airlines Group led the list with net income of $1.46 billion, followed by United Continental Holdings at $919 million and Delta Air Lines at $889 million. With Southwest Airlines’ $485 million, the Big Four have earnings $3.75 billion. Adding in four other airlines that have reported quarterly earnings so far, net income has totaled $4.03 billion. Even under generally accepted accounting procedures, the airlines reporting so far have combined for $3.38 billion — $2.92 billion for the Big Four.

Morgan Stanley to pay $275M in settlement

Morgan Stanley and securities regulators finalized a $275 million settlement stemming from the Wall Street bank’s role in the sale of securities backed by subprime mortgages. In a regulatory filing in February, Morgan Stanley disclosed that it had reached an agreement in principle with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC officially approved the settlement with the filing of an administrative order. Morgan Stanley neither admitted nor denied liability.

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