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15-year mortgage rates drop to all-time low

WASHINGTON -- The average rate on a 15-year fixed mortgage has fallen to a record low, leading to an increase in refinancing applications. But cheaper loans are unlikely to lift the struggling housing market or boost the weak economy.

The rate on the 15-year loan, a popular refinancing option, dropped to 3.54 percent this week from 3.66 percent last week, Freddie Mac said Thursday. That's the lowest since the mortgage buyer began tracking it in 1991. Analysts say they believe it is lowest rate of all time.

The average rate on the 30-year fixed loan fell to a yearly low of 4.39 percent from

4.55 percent the previous week.

Mortgage rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. A weakening U.S. economy has led many investors to shift money from stocks to bonds, which are seen as safer bets. That has pushed Treasury yields to their lowest level this year.

Still, low mortgage rates and depressed home prices have had little impact on home sales.


Turkey products recall spares two big chains

Tops Friendly Markets and Wegmans stores were not affected by Wednesday's recall by Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. of 36 million pounds of fresh and frozen turkey products. The recalled products were produced at Cargill's Springdale, Ark., facility from Feb. 20 to Aug. 2. The two dominant grocery chains in Western New York do not sell those products.

Investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, the U.S. Agriculture Department Food Safety and Inspection Service and Cargill Corp. identified the plant as a possible source of salmonella that has affected 77 people in 26 states since March.

For a list of affected items, visit


Southwest to reduce plans for growth

DALLAS -- Southwest Airlines Co. set records for full planes, and higher fares boosted revenue as the summer vacation season kicked into high gear.

But Southwest said Thursday its fuel costs soared, its second-quarter profit fell short of analysts' expectations and it will scale back growth plans.

Southwest shares tumbled 81 cents, or 8.4 percent, to $8.84, their lowest closing price in nearly two years. The percentage decline was about twice that of the Dow Jones industrial average, which suffered its biggest drop since December 2008.

Gary Kelly, chairman and CEO, said that business travel, a key market for airlines, slowed during the summer and he was not sure when it will recover.

"I'm concerned about the U.S. economy," Kelly said.

Southwest enjoyed a windfall of $3.6 million a day from the expiration of airline ticket taxes in the last two weeks stemming from the impasse in Congress over funding the Federal Aviation Administration.