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30-year mortgages ease to 3.85 percent

WASHINGTON — Average longterm U.S. mortgage rates eased slightly this week, continuing at low levels that could entice potential homebuyers.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 3.85 percent from 3.86 percent a week earlier. The rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages ticked down to 3.07 percent from 3.08 percent.

Rates have stayed below 4 percent for 10 straight weeks.— AP

Slow global economy stalls U.S. manufacturing

WASHINGTON — U.S. manufacturers expanded at their slowest pace in two years last month, held back by faltering global growth and cutbacks in oil and gas drilling.

The Institute for Supply Management says its index of factory activity fell sharply to 50.2 in September from 51.1 in August. That is the lowest level since April 2013. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

New orders and production both fell sharply and a measure of hiring also declined, though all three still showed growth.

U.S. manufacturers are getting hit by slower growth in China, the world's second-largest economy, and a stronger dollar, which makes U.S. goods more expensive overseas. Oil and gas drillers are also cutting back on their orders for steel pipe and other goods in the wake of sharply lower oil prices.— AP

Amazon to stop selling Apple, Google streaming devices is flexing its e-commerce muscles to gain an edge on competitors in the videostreaming market by ending the sale of devices from Google and Apple.

The Seattle-based Web retailer sent an email to its marketplace sellers that it will stop selling Apple TV and Google's Chromecast. No new listings for the products will be allowed and posting of existing inventory will be removed Oct. 29, Amazon said. Amazon's streaming video service, Prime Video, doesn't run easily on rivals' devices.

"It's important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion," Amazon said.

Roku Inc.'s hardware, Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox, and Sony Corp.'s PlayStation, which work with Amazon's Prime Video streaming service, aren't affected.

Amazon's Fire TV stick, which plugs into an HDMI port to connect televisions with streaming services such as Netflix and Prime Video, is the company's best-selling electronic device.— Bloomberg News

Applications for jobless aid rise but remain near lows

WASHINGTON — Applications for unemployment benefits rose last week, but Americans are seeking jobless aid at historically low levels consistent with a healthy job market.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for jobless aid rose 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 277,000. The four-week average, a less volatile figure, declined to 270,750.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Jobless claims averaging less than 300,000 a week have corresponded with net monthly job gains of roughly 200,000. The government will issue its official jobs report for September today.— AP

Walmart said to plan job cuts at headquarters

Walmart Stores Inc. is planning job cuts at its headquarters that could involve hundreds of workers, including senior managers, according to people familiar with the situation.

The cuts are expected to begin in the next week, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private.

The move is part of Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon's efforts to reduce costs at the retailer while it boosts investment in other areas, including higher wages for store workers. The company has about 19,000 employees at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.

A spokeswoman at Walmart declined to comment.

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