Business news briefs — July 3

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Mortgage rates drop

Mortgage rates for 30-year home loans declined this week, reducing borrowing costs for homebuyers after the biggest jump in 26 years.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 4.29 percent from a two-year high of 4.46 percent last week, mortgage guarantor Freddie Mac said in a statement Wednesday. The average 15-year rate dropped to 3.39 percent from 3.5 percent.

Rates are adjusting after spiking last week over expectations that the Federal Reserve will scale back bond purchases that were stimulating the economy, said Keith Gumbinger, vice president of, a Riverdale, N.J.-based mortgage-information website. Last week’s increase in the 30-year average was the biggest since 1987.

“We see rates starting to settle back after the panic move,” Gumbinger said Tuesday.

The average 30-year rate has increased from a near-record low of 3.35 percent in early May. It is still well below the average of about 5.3 percent over the past 10 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

Buyers seeking to take advantage of rates before they climb further are competing for a tight supply of listings, driving up values. U.S. home prices rose 12.2 percent in May from a year earlier, the largest increase since February 2006, Irvine, Calif.-based CoreLogic Inc. said Tuesday.


Stewart gets pay cut

Martha Stewart agreed to have her annual pay cut by 10 percent to $1.8 million at the business she created and bears her name, amid losses and a shift away from the company’s roots in publishing and television.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. changed its 71-year-old chairman’s compensation as part of an option in a July 2012 agreement that extended her employment until 2017, according to a filing Wednesday. Her annual license fee was also trimmed by $300,000 to $1.7 million.

In the past year, the New York-based company has suffered from slumping advertising sales at its magazines and declining broadcasting revenue following the cancellation of The Martha Stewart Show. Martha Stewart Living, which is trying to focus more on its merchandising business, is also seeking a permanent chief executive officer.

Martha Stewart Living, which posted a net loss of $3.27 million in the first quarter after losing $56.1 million in 2012, said in the filing the changes in Stewart’s contract are consistent with its plan to return to profitability.


Dow rises 56 points

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 56.14 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 14,988.55, with shares of Boeing Co. and Cisco Systems Inc. leading the way.

Shares of Alcoa Inc. fell 1.2 percent, the worst performer on the index after a downgrade from JPMorgan analysts. The aluminum giant will kick off second-quarter earnings season on Monday after the bell.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index advanced 1.33 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to finish at 1,615.41.

The Nasdaq composite finished up 10.27 points, or 0.3 percent, at 3,443.67, as Apple Inc. gained 0.6 percent.


Online betting in N.J.

PokerStars, the world’s largest Internet poker site, plans to offer online gaming in New Jersey with Resorts Casino Hotel.

New Jersey legalized online betting in February as a way to boost the state’s $3 billion casino industry, which has been losing business as nearby markets expanded. Online operators are required to form a partnership with a casino located in Atlantic City, the state’s gambling center.

A deal for PokerStars to buy New Jersey’s Atlantic Club Casino Hotel fell apart earlier this year amid opposition from the American Gaming Association trade group. PokerStars’ parent company, Isle of Man-based Rational Group Ltd., reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over charges of fraud and money laundering related to the company’s offering of online poker in the country last year.

Resorts, Atlantic City’s first casino, opened in 1978 and is owned by New York real estate investor Morris Bailey and managed by a unit of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.


Smartphone programming

NBCUniversal’s USA Network, the most-watched channel on cable TV, is making original programs such as Royal Pains and Burn Notice available to subscribers on smartphones and tablets. The shows can be seen online, on Apple Inc.’s iPad and on other mobile devices using the USA Now app the day after they air on television, Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal said. The company also plans to introduce similar applications for its other entertainment channels.

Compiled from staff and wire reports

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