Number of millionaires sets new record, consultant says

Nearly 2 million people around the world became millionaires last year, a year-over-year increase of 15 percent, as surging stock and home markets lifted the fortunes of the wealthy. The increase raised the number of millionaires to a record 13.7 million.

A report from consultant Capgemini and the Royal Bank of Canada estimated the combined net worth of millionaires at $53 trillion in 2013. That was up 14 percent from a year earlier – the second-biggest increase since the two companies began issuing wealth reports with comparable data in 2000.

Discrimination settlement will cost bank $169 million

GE Capital Retail Bank has agreed to pay $169 million to settle a lawsuit that accused it of discriminating against Hispanic credit card customers, the Justice Department said Thursday, calling it the largest government credit-card discrimination settlement ever.

In addition, GE Capital must refund $56 million to about 638,000 consumers who were subjected to deceptive marketing practices to promote extra credit-card products known as “add-ons,” in an agreement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The practices included falsely marketing products as free of charge and falsely saying the offers were for a limited time only.

Fewer Americans applying for unemployment benefits

Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, as the number of people collecting jobless aid fell to its lowest level in more than six years.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 312,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined to 311,750.

There are 2.56 million people receiving benefits. That’s the lowest total since October 2007.

Gauge of U.S. economy gained 0.5 percent in May

A gauge designed to predict the economy’s future health increased for a fourth month in May, providing further evidence that the economy is gaining strength after a harsh winter caused activity to go into reverse.

The Conference Board said Thursday that its index of leading indicators increased 0.5 percent last month, an improvement from a revised 0.3 percent gain in April. The strength was broadly based with positive contributions from all the financial and labor components of the index.

Late recovery gives S&P 500 another record closing

Investors remained in a record-setting mood Thursday.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index closed at an all-time high for the second time in two days and notched its fifth gain in five days.

The Dow Jones industrial average and Nasdaq composite ended mixed after drifting between small gains and losses for much of the day.

— From news service reports