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Thursday Afternoon Business Brief

January 19, 2012, 1:22 PM

Thursday Afternoon Business Brief
Stocks are holding on to modest gains rose at midday. Quiet trading has largely dominated on Wall Street so far in this new year.
  • With figures now in from the Commerce Department, 2011 will go down as the slowest on record for construction of single-family homes. Some recent signs of improvement have given analysts reason for hope this year.
  • Freddie Mac says the average for 30-year fixed-rate fixed mortgages is down again this week to a record low. However, the low level of rates isn't spurring as much activity as would typically be the case because many people have already used them to refinance or buy a home.
  • Apple has unveiled its strategy to try to make the iPad a replacement for traditional textbooks by starting to sell electronic versions of some high-school books. It also revealed iBook Author, an application for Macs that lets people create electronic textbooks.
  • France and Spain have sailed through their first bond market tests since Standard & Poor's downgraded their credit ratings last week. Both easily hit their targets amid strong demand, while the borrowing rates fell, suggesting investors are still happy to invest in them and have largely shrugged off S&P's decision to downgrade nine euro nations.

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