Jobless benefits requests finally fall below 400,000

The number of people seeking jobless benefits dropped last week to the lowest level since early April, a sign the job market may be healing after a recent slump.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications fell 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 398,000. That’s the first time applications have fallen below 400,000 in 16 weeks.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped to 413,750, the lowest since the week of April 23.

Home-purchase contracts increase slightly in June

The number of people who signed contracts to buy homes rose for a second month in June. But the gain was not enough to signal a rebound in the weak housing market.

The National Association of Realtors reported that its index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes rose 2.4 percent in June to a reading of 90.9. A reading of 100 is considered healthy by economists. The last time the index reached that level was in April 2010, the final month when buyers could qualify for a federal tax credit.

Contract signings are typically a reliable indicator of where the housing market is headed. That’s because there’s usually a one- to two-month lag between a sales contract and a completed deal.

Add another $1 billion to Madoff victim repayments

A trustee recovering money for investors who lost billions of dollars through Wall Street swindler Bernard Madoff’s dealings says he has secured more than a billion dollars through settlements with associates of the second-largest feeder fund group to invest with Madoff.

Trustee Irving Picard said Thursday that the settlement will boost recoveries of money available to jilted investors to more than $8.6 billion. He says that’s nearly half of the roughly $17.3 billion in principal lost by Madoff, who pleaded guilty to fraud charges and is imprisoned in Butner, N.C.

The deal was reached with more than a dozen investment funds, affiliates and a former executive associated with Rye, N.Y., money management company Tremont Group Holdings Inc.

Tremont is a subsidiary of MassMutual Holding and the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. It says it’s happy to have resolved the matter.

JetBlue’s unlimited flights depart from Logan airport

Call it All-You-Can-Jet: Business Edition.

JetBlue introduced several new three-month, unlimited flight plans Thursday in an attempt to snare more higher-paying business travelers. BluePass is available only for departure from Boston Logan International Airport or Long Beach Airport for travel between Aug. 22 and Nov. 22.

Under the new plan, there are three options. The first, costing $1,299, allows for travel between Long Beach and nine Western cities. The second, at $1,499, offers Boston fliers unlimited travel to 13 cities in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic.

The third option is $1,999 for travel from Boston to any city JetBlue serves.

Time Warner reports profit of $420 million for quarter

Time Warner Cable Inc. said Thursday that its second-quarter profit rose 23 percent, boosted by strong results in its business services and higher revenue from residential users.

The nation’s second-largest cable company said its net income rose to $420 million, or $1.24 per share, in the three months ended June 30, up from $342 million, or 95 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose 4 percent to $4.94 billion from $4.73 billion.

Analysts, on average, were expecting earnings of $1.16 per share on revenue of $4.94 billion, according to FactSet.

— From news service reports