U.S. mortgage rates again at record low
WASHINGTON: Rates on 30-year mortgages fell to the lowest level on record for the second consecutive week after the Federal Reserve launched a new effort to assist the staggering U.S. housing market. Mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac said Thursday that average rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages dropped to 4.78 percent this week, from 4.85 percent last week. It was the lowest in the history of Freddie Mac's survey, which dates back to 1971. Rates are down by more than a full percentage point from a year ago. "Mortgage rates followed other interest rates lower this week amid reports of slower economic growth," Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, said in a prepared statement. Low rates have sparked a surge in refinancing activity. The Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday that its weekly application index climbed 3 percent for the week ended March 27, on top of a 30 percent increase a week earlier. Nearly 80 percent of applications came from borrowers seeking to refinance.
Rite Aid may shut down 117 stores
NEW YORK: Reporting that its loss doubled in its fourth quarter, Rite Aid Corp. is planning to close as many as 117 stores over the next year. The Camp Hill, Pa., drugstore operator said the closings will be scattered around the country, targeting those with weak sales or close to another Rite Aid. It said fourth-quarter results were hurt by the recession, along with a fairly mild cough, cold and flu season and the introduction of new low-cost generic drugs. About 70 of the stores slated for closure used to be part of the Brooks Eckerd chain. Rite Aid bought 1,850 of those stores in June 2007 for $2.36 billion, but they have not done as well as Rite Aid's older stores. Rite Aid had 4,901 stores in 31 states at the end of February. Excluding write-downs and other one-time costs, Rite Aid lost $116.9 million, or 14 cents per share. Revenue fell 2 percent to $6.71 billion.
Northrop Grumman settles parts suit
WASHINGTON : Northrop Grumman has agreed to pay $325 million to resolve allegations it provided and billed the National Reconnaissance Office for defective military satellite parts, the Justice Department says. The government says its investigation found that Los Angeles-based Northrop and TRW Inc., which Northrop acquired in 2002, failed to properly test certain parts made by TRW between 1992 and 2002. The government also found that the companies misrepresented and hid certain material facts about the parts' reliability. A Northrop Grumman Corp. representative wasn't immediately available for comment.
5 banks repay $353 million to bailout
WASHINGTON: Five banks have repaid millions of dollars they received from the government's $700 billion financial bailout pot, the Obama administration said Thursday. The Treasury Department, which oversees the bailout program, said the banks returned a total of $353 million. The banks are: Iberiabank Corp. of Lafayette, La.; Bank of Marin Bancorp of Novato, Calif.; Old National Bancorp. of Evansville, Ind.; Signature Bank of New York; and Centra Financial Holdings Inc. of Morgantown, W.Va. They were the first banks to repay the government, wanting to escape the increasingly tough restrictions placed on participants in the rescue program. In addition to the $353 million, the banks paid the government a total of $5.4 million in dividends, the Treasury Department said.