Business briefs: Initial jobless claims sink to six-year low

  • Updated: December 5, 2013 - 8:46 PM

Initial jobless claims sink to six-year low

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits tumbled 23,000 last week to 298,000, nearly a six-year low that shows companies are laying off fewer workers. The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average declined 10,750 to 322,250. Last week’s unemployment benefit applications nearly matched a September figure that was distorted by late reporting from California. When excluding the September report, last week’s figures were the lowest since May 2007. Applications have now fallen in seven of the past eight weeks, a hopeful sign for job growth at the end of the year. Last week included the Thanksgiving holiday, which can present challenges for seasonal adjustments. But government officials say there were no special factors affecting the report.

J.C. Penney reveals inquiry by SEC officials

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. said the SEC is looking into its liquidity, debt and other financial matters. The struggling retailer disclosed in a regulatory filing that it received a letter from the Securities and Exchange Commission in October requesting information on its liquidity, cash position, debt and equity financing, as well as its offering of common stock announced in September. J.C. Penney said it is cooperating with the SEC and providing the requested information. A representative for the Plano, Texas, company could not be reached for further comment.

U.S. mortgage rates up sharply this week

Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages rose sharply this week, making home-buying slightly less affordable. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average rate on the 30-year loan jumped to 4.46 percent from 4.29 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan increased to 3.47 percent from 3.30 percent. Rates have risen a full percentage point since May after the Federal Reserve signaled it might slow its bond purchases by year’s end. Rates peaked at 4.6 percent in August. Mortgage rates have stabilized since September, when the Fed surprised markets by taking no action. And rates remain low by historical standards.

JPMorgan prepaid card information hacked

JPMorgan Chase & Co. that about 465,000 users of a prepaid cash card may have had their personal information hacked. The card, UCard, is used in corporate or government prepaid benefit programs, such as food stamps, unemployment benefits, or tax refunds. Corporations use UCard to pay workers who don’t have checking accounts. The hackers had access to the personal information from mid-July to mid-September. Michael Fusco, a spokesman for JPMorgan, said the bank found no evidence the information accessed was used improperly.

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