FirstEnergy is buying Allegheny Energy in a $4.7 billion stock deal that will bring together two neighboring rivals to form one of the biggest power companies in the country. The new company will be made up of 10 utilities serving 6.1 million customers from Ohio to New Jersey, with $16 billion in annual revenue and $1.4 billion in profit. The deal is expected to close within 14 months. FirstEnergy CEO Anthony Alexander will remain the top executive of the combined company, which will be based at FirstEnergy's headquarters in Akron, Ohio.

Jobless claims down more than expected

The number of newly laid-off workers seeking unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week to the lowest total in a month, a sign the job market may be improving. The Labor Department said that first-time claims for unemployment insurance dropped by 43,000 to a seasonally adjusted 440,000. Wall Street economists expected a smaller decline of 15,000, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

Motorola splits into consumer, business units

Struggling technology company Motorola Inc.plans to split in two in early 2011 -- with one half containing its consumer-focused mobile phone and television set-top box products, and the other holding divisions that target business customers. The split will give current shareholders a share in each new company, which will be roughly the same size in terms of annual revenue at $11 billion. Both halves will be publicly traded. Sanjay Jha will run the consumer-oriented company; Greg Brown will lead the side focusing on high-tech business products such as handheld devices for warehouse workers.

BP to expand rewards program with retailers

BP is expanding a program to attract drivers by giving them a break when they fill up. The oil company said it is installing technology throughout its network of 10,000 gas stations nationwide that will allow drivers to redeem instant cents-off-per-gallon savings rewards from retailers at the pump. The BP program is similar to those offered by grocery stores and other retailers across the country who partner with gas stations to reward loyal customers with cheaper fuel.

30-year fixed mortgage rates dip below 5%

Rates on 30-year fixed mortgages fell slightly this week, dipping below 5 percent, the mortgage financier Freddie Mac said. The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.97 percent this week, down from an average of 5.01 percent last week. Last year at this time, the rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage averaged 5.16 percent, Freddie Mac said. Rates fell to a record low of 4.71 percent in early December.

Nissan to start signing up electric-car buyers

Nissan Motor Co. will start signing up customers in April who want to buy its new Leaf electric car, with shipments starting by the end of the year. Nissan has shown the five-passenger sedan, which can go 100 miles on a single charge, at cities around the country over the last three months in a push to market zero-emission technology. The Japanese automaker has received $1.4 billion in loans from the federal government to help it build the Leaf at a factory in Tennessee.

FROM NEWS SERVICES