– Chrysler refinancing deal to permit bailout payback

Chrysler will soon repay $7.5 billion in bailout money from the U.S. and Canadian governments, another sign that the company is recovering from its near collapse two years ago.

The company will pay back that government debt later this quarter using money from new bank loans and an upcoming bond sale. Chrysler has been negotiating a loan refinancing deal with Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Bank of America. Details could be disclosed on Monday.

The refinancing would allow Chrysler to repay a big chunk of the bailout from the U.S. and Canada that helped the company get through bankruptcy in 2009. It would also help the automaker save millions by lowering interest payments and bolster its case for a public stock offering as early as the end this year.

Exelon acquisition continues energy trend

Exelon Corp. agreed to buy Constellation Energy Group Inc. for $7.9 billion Thursday, the latest in a string of acquisitions in the electric power industry.

Exelon CEO John Rowe, the longest-serving utility CEO in the country, has long been a proponent of consolidation. He has failed three times since 2003 to acquire a smaller rival. Now the market conditions appear to be on his side.

Unemployment requests show jobs slow to recover

More people sought unemployment benefits last week, the second rise in three weeks, a sign of the slow and uneven jobs recovery.

Applications for unemployment benefits jumped 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 429,000 for the week ending April 23, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s the highest total since late January.

The four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, rose to 408,500, its third straight rise and the first time it has topped 400,000 in two months. Applications near 375,000 are consistent with sustained job creation. Applications peaked during the recession at 659,000.

Home-purchase contracts increase, but not enough

More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in March, but sales were uneven across the country and were not enough to signal a rebound in the housing market.

Sales agreements for homes rose 5.1 percent last month to a reading of 94.1, according to the National Association of Realtors’ pending home sales index released Thursday.

Signings are about 24 percent above June’s index reading, the low point since the housing bust. Still, the index is below 100, the standard for a healthy level. The last time it reached that point was in April, the final month people could qualify for a federal home-buying tax credit of up to $8,000.

Cost of household items add to consumer woes

Households reeling from gasoline near $4 a gallon also face bigger bills for everything from changing their babies’ diapers to wiping their noses to treating themselves to ice cream.

Major makers of everyday consumer products and groceries say they have to raise prices to offset soaring costs for their fuel and the materials and ingredients that go into their products.

Retailers are trying to pass that along at the cash register, adding pressure on a sluggish U.S. economic recovery.

The list of companies saying this week that they are raising prices is long: Kimberly-Clark Corp. (Huggies diapers, Kleenex facial tissue); Procter & Gamble Co. (Pampers diapers, Gillette shavers); Unilever PLC (Dove soap, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream); Colgate-Palmolive (toothpaste, soap); and PepsiCo Inc. (soft drinks, Frito-Lay snacks).

— From news service reports