Existing home sales rose again last month

Americans stepped up their homebuying for a third straight month in July, as sales accelerated to the strongest pace in eight years. The National Association of Realtors said sales of existing homes rose 2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.59 million, the fastest rate since February 2007. Sales have jumped 9.6 percent over the past 12 months, while the number of listings has declined 4.7 percent. Steady job growth and relatively low mortgage rates have convinced current homeowners to purchase homes, while first-time buyers remain scarce. The housing market contains a mere 4.8 months' supply of homes, meaning that prices are rising for an increasingly narrow set of properties.

Mortgage rates dip as Fed decision looms

Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates edged lower this week, with the key 30-year loan rate remaining under 4 percent. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage ticked down to 3.93 percent from 3.94 percent a week earlier. A year ago, the average rate was 4.10 percent. The rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages eased this week to 3.15 percent from 3.17 percent. Investors and financial experts are watching for an anticipated interest-rate increase by the Federal Reserve next month, which could bring higher rates for home loans.

Twitter's shares fall below their IPO price

Twitter's battered shares dipped below their IPO price as investors worry about the company's ability to grow its user base. Shares of the messaging service fell 5.8 percent to close at $26, after trading as low as $25.92 during the day amid a broader market decline. Twitter went public in November 2013 at an initial public offering price of $26 per share. The stock is down 29 percent since Twitter's July 28 earnings report, when it warned that boosting its user growth rate will take a long time.

Initial jobless claims tick up but remain low

The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose slightly last week, yet remained at a low level consistent with a solid job market. The Labor Department said that weekly unemployment applications climbed 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 277,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 5,500 to 271,500. Applications, which are a proxy for layoffs, are near the lowest levels in 15 years. Two weeks ago, the four-week average dropped to its lowest point since April 2000.

FedEx, pilots reach tentative agreement

FedEx pilots tentatively agreed with the package delivery company on an amended collective bargaining agreement, the Air Line Pilots Association said. FedEx and its pilots have been negotiating on employment conditions since 2011. FedEx management filed for a mediation process with the National Mediation Board in October 2014. The terms of the agreement are not being released pending approval by the union's executive council, ALPA said.

Smartphone sales growth hits the brakes

Worldwide sales of smartphones in the second quarter grew at the slowest pace since 2013 as sales in China declined for the first time, according to research firm Gartner Inc. Gartner said that smartphone sales grew 13.5 percent to 330 million units in the second quarter compared with a year earlier. While demand continues to increase in emerging markets, Gartner said overall smartphone sales were mixed. Smartphone sales in China fell 4 percent year-over-year — the first such decline for the world's most populous country.

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