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Thursday Afternoon Business Brief

July 17, 2014, 1:52 PM

Thursday Afternoon Business Brief
NEW YORK -

U.S. financial markets have turned lower in afternoon trading, giving back yesterday's gains. But stocks remain near record territory. Investors are considering a mixed bag of economic data and company earnings reports, while monitoring reports that a Malaysian jetliner was shot down over eastern Ukraine.

  • A tentative agreement has been reached to avert a strike by workers at the nation's largest commuter railroad. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement after Long Island Rail Road union leaders and officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority worked out final details at Cuomo's Manhattan office. The unions had been working without a contract since 2010.
     
  • Average U.S. mortgage rates have declined slightly this week. Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year loan dipped to 4.13 percent, down from 4.15 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, edged down to 3.23 percent, compared with 3.24 percent last week.
     
  • The Senate has voted to extend an expiring program that would cushion the blow to insurance companies in the event of a massive terrorism attack. The program was enacted in the aftermath of Sept. 11, when insurance companies were reluctant to provide coverage for terrorism attacks. Under the program, the federal government pays a portion of the damages for attacks that cost more than $100 million. The House is considering a similar bill.
     
  • The House has passed a package of tax breaks designed to boost charitable donations. One provision provides tax breaks to people over 70 who make donations from their individual retirement accounts. Another reduces excise taxes on private charitable foundations. Other provisions provide tax breaks for landowners who donate land for conservation purposes, and businesses that donate food to food banks. The White House has threatened to veto the bill, which now goes to the Senate.

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