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30-year mortgage rate holds steady at 4.5%

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fixed mortgage rates were mostly unchanged this week, hovering near yearly lows.

The average rate on the 30-year loan held steady at 4.50 percent, Freddie Mac said Thursday. It hit 4.49 percent two weeks ago, the lowest level this year. The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, popular for refinancing, inched up to 3.69 percent. Last week, it reached a yearly low of 3.67 percent.

Rates typically track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. That yield has been dropping in recent weeks based on weak data that points to a slower economy.

Low mortgage rates and falling home prices have done little to boost the troubled housing markets. Tougher lending standards and bigger down payment requirements have prevented many people from taking advantage of the ultra-low rates. Many people who can qualify are holding off, worried that prices have yet to bottom out.

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Yahoo CEO denounced

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Yahoo Inc. Chairman Roy Bostock sought to defuse speculation about CEO Carol Bartz's job security at the Internet company's annual shareholders meeting Thursday only to have it ignited again at the end of the session by an exasperated investor.

After Bostock opened the meeting with an endorsement of Bartz's performance, the unhappy investor ended it with a five-minute condemnation of Yahoo's CEO and the entire board of directors.

The investor identified himself as someone who personally owns some Yahoo stock and advises funds that own several million of the company's shares. The Associated Press couldn't verify his identify because Yahoo banned reporters from the meeting held in a Santa Clara hotel, telling the media to listen to a webcast of the event instead.

During his unflattering critique, the investor described Bartz as a "lame duck" who should be immediately bought out of a four-year contract that expires in January 2013.

Bartz thanked him for his opinion and then added, "That was certainly a downer." No other shareholder lambasted Bartz during the 75-minute meeting.

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Antitrust probe eyes Google

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A published report says federal regulators are preparing to issue subpoenas to Google and other companies as authorities gather information for a broad antitrust probe into the Internet search leader's business practices.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the Federal Trade Commission will issue subpoenas "within days," which would signal that it has opened a formal investigation.

The FTC is looking into whether Google abuses its dominance of Internet search to extend its influence into other lucrative online markets, such as mapping, comparison shopping and travel. Rivals complain that Google Inc., which handles two out of every three Internet searches in the U.S., manipulates its results to steer users to its own sites and services and bury links to competitors.

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Farmers may obtain aid

Farmers in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Erie counties may be eligible for Farm Service Agency disaster emergency loan assistance because of spring storms.

Family farmers may be eligible for up to 100 percent of their losses, the amount needed to stay in business, or $500,000, whichever is less. Proceeds from crop insurance and FSA programs will be taken into account, and farmers must be unable to secure loans from private commercial lenders to qualify for the federal program. Emergency loans have a 3.75 percent interest rate.

Erie County farmers can apply for assistance for damage that occurred April 26 to May 8. Farmers in Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties can apply for assistance for damage that occurred after April 1. Farmers must have document records to prove their losses occurred in this time frame as a result of rain, hail, floods, wind, a tornado or lightning.

Applications will be accepted until Feb. 6. The FSA office is at 3542 Turner Road, Jamestown, NY 14701. The phone number is (716) 664-2351.

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