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Demand for autos offsets decline in factory goods

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A surge in demand for autos and aircraft drove orders for long-lasting manufactured goods higher in July, easing fears that the economy might be on the verge of another recession.

The rebound in the auto industry helped offset a decline in orders for most other factory goods.

Overall orders for durable goods rose 4 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

The report "reinforces other data that the economy wasn't at serious risk of recession through July," said David Resler, chief U.S. economist at Nomura Securities. Retail sales and industrial production also held up well last month, he said.

The data did offer a cautionary signal: A key category that tracks business investment plans fell 1.5 percent, the biggest drop in six months. That suggests businesses are pulling back on spending. Orders in all other major categories dropped, including computers, electronic goods and machinery.


Mortgage applications fall

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mortgage applications to purchase a home fell last week to a 15-year low, despite the lowest mortgage rates in decades.

Many potential buyers are holding off because they are worried about job security and fear the economy could slip back into another recession.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday that an index measuring mortgage applications, which is adjusted for seasonal factors, fell 2.4 percent last week from the previous week. Home mortgage applications plunged 5.7 percent to their lowest level since December 1996.

The share of mortgage applications used for refinancing has risen to nearly 80 percent of the market, up from 70 percent just three weeks ago.


Hertz, GE to partner

SHANGHAI (AP) -- Rental car company Hertz Global Holdings and General Electric plan to partner in offering electric vehicles in China and expanding the charging networks needed to run them.

An agreement signed in Shanghai's "Auto City" of Anting on Wednesday calls for building hundreds of charging stations in major Chinese cities including Shanghai and Beijing, Hertz executives said.

The plan aligns with the government's effort to promote commercialization of new energy vehicles as a way to reduce oil imports and help curb pollution. Setting up the infrastructure to charge such vehicles is viewed as a key hurdle toward enticing consumers to switch from cars that run on gasoline or diesel to electric vehicles.


Burger King adds oatmeal

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Oatmeal is the new burger.

Burger King, the world's second-largest hamburger chain, added oatmeal to its breakfast menu this week, joining a slew of other chains that have brought the hot cereal out of the cupboard and into restaurants and drive-thrus.

Burger King says it is trying to offer customers a healthier breakfast option beyond its sausage croissant sandwiches and French toast dipping sticks. It's also an attempt by the struggling chain to catch up to competitors and boost sagging sales by appealing to customers beyond its base of burgers-and-fries fans.

Breakfast is becoming the most important meal of the day for restaurants -- accounting for nearly 60 percent of traffic growth between 2005 and 2010 -- and oatmeal is the latest battleground.


KeyBank branch to open

KeyBank will open its newest Western New York branch on Monday, at the corner of Hopkins and West Klein roads in Amherst.

The new office at 804 Hopkins Road is one of 40 new KeyBank offices that are slated to open nationwide this year, including four new branches and six ATM kiosks in Western New York.

The 4,092-square-foot office, located on the site of a former gas station, will have seven employees, four teller stations, five employee workstations, two drive-up teller windows, a 24-hour drive-up ATM and free onsite parking. It will also feature state-of-the-art technology. It will be managed by Anthony M. Lanza, a former HSBC Bank USA branch manager.

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