Airlines report big profits during second quarter

Investing in airlines has long been the butt of jokes, especially when many U.S. carriers traipsed through bankruptcy court in the past decade.

Now, riding a post-merger tide of higher fares and stable fuel costs, airlines are piling up profits – and them with investors.

American Airlines said Thursday that it will pay its first dividend in 34 years, and both American and United Airlines announced plans to buy back their own stock, a strategy designed to boost the value of remaining shares.

Those announcements came as American, United and Southwest reported record-setting second-quarter results, building on Delta’s solid performance a day earlier.

Layoffs becoming rare across U.S. job market

The risk of losing your job is getting smaller.

As the U.S. economy has improved and employers have regained confidence, companies have been steadily shedding fewer workers. Applications for unemployment benefits have dwindled to their lowest level since February 2006, the government said Thursday.

The trend suggests a critical turning point in the economic recovery. It raises the hope that workers’ pay will finally accelerate after grinding through a sluggish recovery for the past half-decade.

Employers have added 200,000-plus jobs for five straight months, and the unemployment rate has reached 6.1 percent, the lowest since 2008.

SEC votes to end $1 a share for some money funds

Regulators have voted by a narrow margin to end a longtime staple of the investment industry – the fixed $1 share price for money-market mutual funds – at least for some money funds used by big investors.

The idea is to minimize the risk of a mass withdrawal from the funds during a financial panic.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also is letting all money funds block withdrawals when their assets fall below certain levels or impose fees for withdrawals.

The new rules were adopted Wednesday on a 3-2 vote, culminating several years of regulatory haggling and false starts.

Former trader is sentenced to 2 years in prison for fraud

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A federal judge sentenced a former Wall Street trader to two years in prison Wednesday for securities fraud, saying he took advantage of a government bailout program.

The judge also fined Jesse Litvak $1.75 million. Litvak was found guilty in March of securities fraud, Troubled Asset Relief Program fraud and making false statements to the federal government.

— From news service reports