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BUSINESS BRIEFLY

Rate nearly unchanged on 30-year mortgage

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage was nearly unchanged this week after rising sharply last week.

Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan edged down to 4.11 percent from 4.12 percent last week. The week before, it fell to 3.94 percent. That's the lowest rate ever, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage ticked up to 3.38 percent from 3.37 percent. It hit a record-low of 3.26 percent two weeks ago.

Low rates have done little to revive the lagging housing market, which has struggled with weak sales and declining prices. Many can't qualify for loans because their credit is weak or they can't afford a down payment. Most of those who can afford to refinance already have.

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Southwest posts loss

DALLAS (AP) -- Southwest Airlines Co. raised fares and packed its planes over the summer, and the nation's biggest discount carrier says bookings look solid the rest of the year.

Southwest's third-quarter results and outlook for the fall suggest that air travel is holding up despite fears that consumers and companies might cut back because of the weak economy.

While its airline business did well during the peak travel season, Southwest posted a $140 million third-quarter loss because its fuel-hedging bets turned sour when oil prices fell this summer. It was Southwest's first loss in two years -- the last one was also due to hedging.

Without the hedging markdown and one-time expenses, Southwest would have earned $122 million, or 15 cents per share -- a penny better than analysts expected.

Southwest and other airlines felt confident enough about demand to raise prices this week, the first broad increase in airfares since the summer.

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Sportservice to celebrate

Delaware North Cos. Sportservice division provides food service for both teams in the World Series this year and will hold a rally for its employees today to celebrate both Major League Baseball teams.

Sportservice controls concessions for the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium and the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The company provides concessions for all four teams that made the league championship series. Delaware North also runs the Cardinals Team Store and several retail stores at Busch Stadium.

Employees will celebrate at the company's headquarters at 40 Fountain Plaza with rally towels, a cake for both teams and Rally Squirrel mascot merchandise.

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Bill is sweet music

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Two members of Congress from Tennessee announced federal legislation Thursday seeking to quell fears among owners of musical instruments and other products made from imported wood that they could face prosecution under a law that has led to raids on Gibson Guitar Corp.

Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper and Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn said at a news conference in a Nashville recording studio that the bill would protect people from prosecution for unknowingly possessing illegally imported wood and would require the federal government to establish a database of forbidden wood sources.

The measure would also exempt any wood imported before 2008 changes to the federal Lacey Act, which bans wood products illegally exported from foreign countries.

Officials with the U.S. Justice Department and the Interior Department in a letter to members of Congress last month said it is not a crime to "unknowingly possess" such instruments and that prosecutors would target only "those who are removing protected species from the wild and making a profit by trafficking in them."

Blackburn said the bill would make that approach the law.

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