Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages rise this week

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages rose this week but remained near historically low levels.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate for the 30-year loan increased to 4.33 percent from 4.28 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage edged up to 3.35 percent from 3.33 percent.

Mortgage rates have risen about a full percentage point since hitting record lows roughly a year ago. The increase was driven by speculation that the Federal Reserve would reduce its $85 billion-a-month bond purchases. Deeming the economy to be gaining strength, the Fed proceeded last month with planned reductions of its bond purchases, which have helped keep long-term interest rates low.

Safeway grocery chain weighs potential sale

CVC Capital Partners and Leonard Green & Partners are among the firms in talks with Safeway about buying some or all of the grocery chain as it weighs a sale, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Safeway, the second-largest U.S. grocery-store chain, said Wednesday it’s in talks about a potential sale as it divests some assets and struggles to increase revenue.

Forecast of Walmart profit trails analysts’ estimates

Walmart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, forecast profit this year that trailed analysts’ estimates as the sluggish U.S. economy and government benefit cuts threaten to restrain sales.

Profit per share in the year through January 2015 will be $5.10 to $5.45, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company said Thursday in a statement. The average of 28 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg was $5.55 a share.

Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon, who took the post earlier this month, is trying to revive Walmart’s U.S. same- store sales growth after lower food-stamp payments, higher taxes and struggles to keep shelves fully stocked contributed to four straight quarterly declines.

Price of U.S. crude oil slips as manufacturing slows in China

The price of oil slipped below $103 a barrel Thursday after a report indicated that manufacturing in China, the world’s second-biggest economy, shrank again in February.

U.S. crude for March delivery fell 39 cents to close at $102.92 a barrel in New York on the last day of trading for the contract. Crude for April delivery fell 9 cents to close at $102.75.

Oil prices fell after a monthly survey by HSBC found that China’s manufacturing, a driver of the global economy, contracted for a second straight month.

— From news service reports