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BUSINESS BRIEFLY

Rate for 30-year mortgage up slightly to 3.9 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage stayed near its lowest level on record, keeping homebuying and refinancing affordable.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan rose to 3.90 percent from 3.88 percent. The rate touched 3.87 percent in February, which was the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The 30-year loan is the most common financing option for homebuyers.

The 15-year mortgage, which is popular with those refinancing, rose to 3.13 percent from 3.11 percent, an all-time low.

Cheaper mortgages have done little to boost home sales. Americans bought 2.6 percent fewer homes in March than in February, according to a separate report released by the National Association of Realtors.

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Microsoft beats expectations

REDMOND, Wash. (AP) -- Microsoft fared better than analysts anticipated in its latest quarter, boosted by a surprising rise in sales of its Windows operating system for personal computers.

The fiscal third-quarter performance announced Thursday comes as investors look forward to the release of Windows 8 later this year. The next version marks the most radical overhaul of the widely used operating system in decades.

Microsoft Corp. earned $5.1 billion, or 60 cents per share, during the three months ending in March. That was down from net income of $5.2 billion, or 61 cents per share, a year ago.

Revenue rose 6 percent from last year to $17.4 billion.

Analysts had anticipated earnings of 58 cents per share on revenue of $17.2 billion, according to a FactSet survey.

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BofA lowers bad-loan fund

NEW YORK (AP) -- Bank of America said Thursday that it set aside less money to cover bad loans in the first three months of the year than it has since before the 2008 financial crisis.

Because Bank of America serves about half the nation's households, the results could be seen as a statement about the progress Americans have made in managing their household finances, saving more and paying back debt.

The bank said it put aside $2.4 billion for bad loans, down from $3.8 billion in the same quarter a year ago and the lowest since the third quarter of 2007, a year before the financial crisis.

It earned $653 million in the first quarter, down 68 percent from last year. The profits were hurt by a $4.8 billion accounting charge that the bank had to take because the value of its debt rose.

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Pyrotek gets grant for power

Pyrotek Inc. is getting a $250,000 grant from National Grid to upgrade an electrical substation that provides power to the Sanborn lithium battery component-maker's new plant.

Pyrotek last year opened its new 93,000-square-foot factory on Cary Road, which more than doubled the size of the manufacturing site.

The company has hired nearly 50 new employees because of the expansion, which increased production of a high-performance anode material that is used in lithium-ion batteries, including those used to power electric vehicles.

Pyrotek also received tax breaks through the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, low-cost hydropower from the New York Power Authority and other state grants and funding.

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Economic indicators rise

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A measure of future U.S. economic activity rose in March for the sixth straight month, a sign that the economy may be gaining momentum.

The Conference Board said Thursday that its index of leading economic indicators rose 0.3 percent in March, after a 0.7 percent increase in the previous month. The index now stands at 95.7, the highest level since June 2008. Before the recession began in December 2007, it routinely topped 100.

The index is designed to anticipate economic conditions three to six months out. Most of the data had been previously released in separate reports.