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30-year fixed mortgage rises to 3.95 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage jumped after standing pat for three straight weeks at record lows. But the rate stayed below 4 percent for the 12th straight week, keeping homebuying and refinancing attractive for those who can qualify.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on the 30-year loan rose to 3.95 percent. That's up from last week's rate of 3.87 percent, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage rose to 3.19 percent from 3.16 percent. It hit a record low of 3.14 percent three weeks ago.

So far, low rates have done little to help the housing market, which is slowly improving. Few people can qualify for the rates and many who can have already done so.


Lin trademark war is on

The fanatical frenzy surrounding New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin is becoming even more Linsane.

A trademark war is brewing over the catchphrase that describes the crazed excitement around Lin.

Since his breakout 25-point game against the Nets on Feb. 4, there have been seven applications filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark "Linsanity."

That includes one by Pamela Deese, a lawyer representing Lin.

The applications cover use of the phrase on everything from cellphone cases and sunglasses to action figures and footwear.

A trademark can take a year or more to register.


Fewer seeking jobless aid

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of people seeking unemployment aid was unchanged last week, and the four-week average of applications fell to its lowest point in four years. The figures add to evidence that show the job market is improving.

Applications stayed last week at a seasonally adjusted 351,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's the fewest since March 2008, when the country was just a few months into the recession.

The four-week average, which smooths week-to-week fluctuations, dropped for the sixth straight week to 359,000. That's also the lowest since March 2008.

Applications have fallen steadily since last October. The average has declined 13.5 percent since then. When applications drop consistently below 375,000, it usually signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

Economists said the level suggests the economy will see another strong month of hiring in February, similar to the average net gain of about 200,000 in the previous three months.


Ex-KBR CEO sentenced

HOUSTON (AP) -- A former KBR Inc. chief executive has been sentenced to 30 months in prison and 3 years of probation for bribing Nigerian government officials in return for $6 billion in engineering and construction contracts.

Albert "Jack" Stanley was sentenced Thursday. The 69-year-old pleaded guilty in 2008 but has been free on bail while awaiting a sentencing date that's been reset 16 times.

The scheme was related to KBR's natural gas operations in Nigeria from 1995 to 2004.

Stanley was the Houston construction giant's chief executive until 2001 and chairman until June 2004. He acknowledged conspiring with several other companies to funnel about $182 million in bribes to Nigerian government officials.

KBR is a worldwide firm that split off from Halliburton in 2007.


New Save-A-Lot store

Save-A-Lot will open a store in Hamburg this week.

The store, at 6000 South Park Ave., will open at 8 a.m. Saturday. It will employ between 20 and 25 workers, most of them part time.

This will be the third Save-A-Lot operated by licensee Kevin Connelly with his four children. The other two stores are in Lackawanna and Dunkirk.

Since January 2011, Save-A-Lot has opened seven new stores in New York State, creating about 264 jobs.

It is Save-A-Lot's 52nd location in the state.