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BUSINESS BRIEFLY

Mortgage rates rise but stay near record low

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average rates on fixed mortgages rose this week, the first increase in seven weeks. But mortgage rates remain near historic lows, boosting prospects for home sales this year.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan increased to 3.71 percent. That's up from 3.67 percent last week, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average rate on the 15-year mortgage, a popular refinancing option, rose to 2.98 percent. That's up from 2.94 percent last week, also a record low.

The rate on the 30-year loan has been below 4 percent since early December. Low rates are a key reason the housing industry is showing modest signs of a recovery this year.

In April, sales of both previously occupied homes and new homes rose near two-year highs. Builders are gaining more confidence in the market, breaking ground on more homes and requesting more permits to build single-family homes later this year.

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2 bailout loans repaid

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Thursday that loans it set up to help facilitate the bailouts of American International Group Inc. and defunct investment bank Bear Stearns during the financial crisis have been fully repaid with interest.

In total, $53.12 billion in loans were repaid. The original amount of the loan to a portfolio called Maiden Lane III LLC, created to buy the securities, repay debt and provide capital for some of AIG's operations, was $24.3 billion. Another $28.82 billion in loans, set up through a portfolio named Maiden Lane LLC, which helped facilitate Bear Stearns' takeover by JPMorgan Chase & Co., were also repaid. The loans were repaid through asset sales.

The government stepped in with a $182.5 billion package to rescue New York-based AIG from collapse in the depths of the financial crisis in 2008. It was the largest bailout in history.

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Elder financial abuse cited

WASHINGTON -- Saying that older Americans have been scammed out of billions of dollars, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday launched an inquiry into financial abuse of the elderly.

"The silent crime of financially exploiting the elderly is widespread and it is devastating. It is critical for us to act," Richard Cordray, the agency's director, said at a White House forum Thursday marking World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. "The generation that rebuilt and sustained this nation out of a devastating Depression, the dark hours of World War II and the anxious fears of the Cold War deserve our care now in their turn."

Cordray cited a recent study that said Americans age 60 years or older lost at least $2.9 billion to financial exploitation in 2010, up 12 percent from 2008.

-- Los Angeles Times

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App follows Joyce's Bloom

BOSTON (AP) -- Boston College students have designed a new app that offers an interactive walking tour of Dublin from the view of James Joyce characters in his stream-of-consciousness work "Ulysses."

School officials expect the app, called JoyceWays, to launch on iTunes this weekend.

English professor Joe Nugent and students were in Dublin on Thursday to introduce the app at the James Joyce Centre.

The app grew out of a project that started in Nugent's class in 2009. It includes maps, photos, videos and narration, tracing the route of "Ulysses" protagonist Leopold Bloom.

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Park has several new rides

Martin's Fantasy Island has invested more than $1 million in a new water park ride.

The Dragster Drench water slide has four lanes in which patrons can race one another to the bottom, reaching speeds of up to 20 mph.

The park spent another $1 million on two new thrill rides it added to the midway last year, the "Mind Warp," in which passengers swing side to side and upside down, and "Devil's Hole," an upgraded version of the gravitational ride that was a favorite at the park years ago.