Fixed rates near 2013 high on long-term mortgages

Average fixed rates on U.S. long-term mortgages neared their highs for the year this week amid signs of further strength in the economy.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan was 4.57 percent this week. That’s up from 4.51 percent last week and close to the high this year of 4.58 percent reached Aug. 22.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage rose from 3.54 percent to 3.59 percent. That’s near the year’s high of 3.6 percent.

Worker productivity grew in the April-June quarter

U.S. workers were more productive from April through June than previously estimated, while labor costs were unchanged.

Productivity grew at an annual rate of 2.3 percent in the April-June quarter, up from an initial estimate of 0.9 percent growth, the Labor Department said Thursday. Unit labor costs were flat in the second quarter, less than the 1.4 percent rise that the government had initially estimated.

The combination of stronger productivity and less of an increase in wages should provide assurances to the Federal Reserve that inflation is not a threat.

Eurozone official: Greece to need more rescue loans

Greece will “very likely” need more financial aid beyond its current rescue loan programs, which end next year, the chairman of the eurozone finance ministers’ meetings acknowledged Thursday.

Greece has been kept out of bankruptcy since 2010 with rescue loans worth 240 billion euros, or $316 billion, from its eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund.

“It’s clear that despite recent progress, Greece’s trouble will not have been completely resolved by 2014,” Jeroen Dijsselbloem told lawmakers in the European Parliament.

August sales disappoint several clothing retailers

Americans’ cautious spending on clothing extended into August, capping a weak back-to-school selling season for retailers.

Several retailers, including clothiers Cato Corp. and L Brands Inc., on Thursday posted disappointing revenue for the month, which falls in the middle of the second-biggest shopping period of the year.

The results raise questions about whether Americans will spend freely for the winter holidays, when retailers make up to 40 percent of their revenue for the year.

Stock markets end day with unimpressive gains

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 6.61 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 14,937.48 on Thursday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose two points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,655.08. The Nasdaq composite gained 9.74 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,658.78.

Benchmark oil for October delivery gained $1.14, or 1.1 percent, to close at $108.37 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

– From news service reports