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Thursday Afternoon Business Brief

December 26, 2013, 1:34 PM

Thursday Afternoon Business Brief

The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits took an unexpectedly large drop last week, and that's helping boost stocks. While today's report follows two weeks of increases in claims, the overall level remains consistent with a solid job market. The Dow was up about 120 points in afternoon trading, while the broader indexes are also making gains.

  • Mortgage rates continue to creep higher, though they remain low by historical standards. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on the 30-year loan increased to 4.48 percent from 4.47 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan rose to 3.52 percent. Mortgage rates peaked at 4.6 percent in August on expectations that the Federal Reserve would reduce the amount of its monthly bond purchases.
  • McDonald's is shutting down a website intended to provide employees with work and life guidance. Media and labor groups have criticized the McResource program for creating unrealistic budgets and offering advice that was out of touch with its workers' pay. Last week, CNBC reported that the website, which is run by an outside company, discouraged eating fast food as part of its tips for healthy living.
  • Union officials say Lufthansa workers are back on the job in Paris following a surprise strike. Lufthansa workers angry over staffing shortages called out sick this morning. A union official says the action got the attention of company managers who showed up at Charles de Gaulle Airport and persuaded staff to return to their posts. But the union official says a formal strike is possible next week if workers can't get a meeting with management about the German airline's plans for job cuts in its French operations.
  • Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Mike Merriweather has filed a federal lawsuit claiming he was fired from his promotions job with a western Pennsylvania casino because of his race. Merriweather says The Meadows Racetrack & Casino hired him to promote events that might attract other athletes to the casino about 15 miles south of Pittsburgh. But he claims the casino's white management made disparaging remarks, sometimes in jest, about him being potentially violent because he's black. A spokesman for the company has declined to comment.

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