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Mortgage rates remain essentially unchanged

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage was nearly unchanged for a second straight week after rising from a record low.

Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan fell to 4.10 percent from 4.11 percent last week. Three weeks ago, it dropped to 3.94 percent. The National Bureau of Economic Research says that's the lowest rate ever.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage was unchanged at 3.38 percent. Three weeks ago, it hit a record low of 3.26 percent.

Low rates have done little to jolt the struggling housing market. Sales remain depressed, and home prices are still dropping in many markets.

High unemployment and declining wages have made it harder for many people to qualify for loans. Most of those who can afford to refinance already have.

The number of Americans who bought previously occupied homes fell in September and is on pace to match last year's dismal figures -- the worst in 13 years.


Depew firm gets grant

PCB Piezotronics has received a $400,000 grant from New York State Electric & Gas for the sensor and instrument manufacturer's $5.3 million expansion in Depew.

PCB Piezotronics plans to expand operations at its Depew headquarters by acquiring the building next door and shifting work from Lackawanna to the enlarged site. The project is expected to add 75 new jobs to the company's more than 500-member work force. The company previously received a $500,000 grant from Empire State Development Corp. to help finance the project. PCB is adding a 50,000-square-foot building next to its Walden Avenue headquarters and factory. The company is consolidating machine operations now split between the existing Depew site and a smaller plant in Lackawanna. NYSEG executives said PCB had been thinking about shifting some work to a sister plant in North Carolina.


Time Warner earnings dip

NEW YORK (AP) -- Time Warner Cable Inc. reported a small decline in its third-quarter earnings Thursday, falling shy of Wall Street's expectations as it continued to lose subscribers to its video service.

Like other cable companies, Time Warner has been working on growing its Web-based video service to attract customers who are increasingly turning to the Internet to watch movies and television shows. But the nation's second biggest cable company continued to see a defection of video customers even as its high-speed Internet subscriber base grew.


SEC wants better records

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The brokerage industry's self-policing organization has been ordered to improve its document procedures after allegedly providing altered records to the Securities and Exchange Commission for an inspection in 2008.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's Kansas City office altered the documents, the SEC said Thursday in announcing the order. The SEC, which oversees the group, known as FINRA, and inspects brokerage firms, had requested the records of three FINRA staff meetings.

The SEC said the 2008 incident was the third time in eight years that FINRA employees had given the SEC doctored or misleading documents.


Wal-Mart faces class action

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Lawyers representing former and current female workers of Wal-Mart Inc.'s California stores on Thursday filed the first of a planned "armada" of class-action lawsuits accusing the world's largest retailer of gender bias.

The lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court seeks to represent what the lawyers said could be as many as 95,000 women who have worked in the state's 220 stores sometime between 1998 and when the case goes to trial. It accuses California managers of paying and promoting women at lesser rates than male counterparts.

The lawsuit is a scaled-down version of an initial complaint filed in 2001 that sought to represent 1.6 million women nationwide. But the U.S. Supreme Court in June tossed out that class-action lawsuit.

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