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30-year mortgage rate drops to near-record low

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage has dipped to near its record low, keeping homebuying and refinancing affordable.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan dropped to 3.88 percent this week, down from 3.9 percent. In February, the rate hit 3.87 percent, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

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

The average on the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, popular with homeowners who are refinancing, dipped to 3.12 percent, down from 3.13 percent last week. The national average hit an all-time low of 3.11 percent two weeks ago.

Cheaper mortgages have so far done little to boost home sales. Sales of both previously occupied homes and new homes fell in March.


Key auto parts supplier out

DETROIT (AP) -- The owner of a German factory that makes a key resin used in auto parts said Thursday that the plant will be out of commission until at least October.

The Evonik Industries AG plant was badly damaged in a March 31 explosion and fire, setting off a mad scramble by global automakers to find substitute materials. A shortage of the resin is threatening to cut global car and truck production just as the U.S. auto sales recovery is accelerating. Automakers and parts companies are testing substitutes but aren't sure if they'll be ready to go in time to hold off any auto production cuts.

The Evonik plant in western Germany made at least a quarter of the world's PA-12, a nylon resin used in fuel and brake lines and hundreds of other auto parts.

Automakers and their parts makers have been trying to divert their remaining supplies of PA-12 to lines and connectors that carry fuel and brake fluid. They're also trying to fast-track testing of possible substitute chemicals.

So far no automaker has reported any production slowdowns. But if the industry can't come up with a substitute, the problem could cause a shortage of some models similar to what happened after last year's earthquake and tsunami in Japan.


Jobless applications static

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits remained stuck near a three-month high last week, a sign that job gains will likely remain modest.

The report disappointed economists, who had forecast a decline in unemployment applications. Even so, most analysts think employers will add about 175,000 jobs this month. That would be more than in March but less than the robust job growth achieved during the winter.

Last week, applications for unemployment aid dipped to a seasonally adjusted 388,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was little changed from the previous week's figure, the highest since Jan. 7.


3 get foreclosure grants

Three local nonprofit agencies have been granted a total of $275,000 by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to help them provide services to Western New Yorkers going through the foreclosure process.

Western New York Law Center of Buffalo and Legal Assistance of Western New York each received $100,000, while Legal Services for the Elderly, Disabled or Disadvantaged of Western New York received $75,000.

Legal agencies around the state bid for the grants, 31 of which received funds.


Made in America celebrates

The Made in America Store in Elma, which sells 100 percent American-made products, will hold a second anniversary celebration from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m Saturday at 900 Maple St.

During the celebration, customers can shop sales-tax free, while veterans and active-duty military personnel receive a 10 percent savings on their purchases.

The event will include live entertainment by Nashville recording artist Ricky Lee. Robin Tolsma, a Flight 3407 widow, will sign copies of her book, "Everything Changed."