Mortgage applications rise after rates hit 50-year low

Applications for mortgages rose last week as consumers refinanced their loans at the lowest rates in more than 50 years.

Overall applications increased nearly 9 percent from a week earlier, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday. But the growth in borrowing came from applications to refinance home loans and not to make new purchases.

Refinancings were up 13 percent, the highest level since May 2009. But they remain about half the level of early 2009, partly because many people who wanted and were able to refinance have already done so.


Former AIG chief defends risky trades before crisis

A former top executive of American International Group Inc. acknowledged Wednesday that his division more than tripled the amount of risky investments it insured in the three years leading up to the 2008 financial meltdown.

But Joseph Cassano, chief executive for AIG’s key financial products division, rebuffed accusations from a congressional panel investigating the crisis that he relaxed standards to issue more credit default swaps.

AIG received a $182 billion taxpayer bailout — the biggest of the federal rescues — after it nearly collapsed and helped trigger the financial crisis.


Boeing buying Argon ST to meet military tech needs

Boeing is buying the combat engineering firm Argon ST for $775 million, reflecting a shift by defense contractors seeking to accommodate a Pentagon that now wants high-tech intelligence tools as much or more than big guns and heavy armor.

The Pentagon is cutting some big weapons meant for conventional wars out of the budget while it shops for technology better suited to fight insurgent groups in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Argon ST Inc. is a Fairfax, Va., company that develops a variety of systems used in surveillance and combat. That includes reconnaissance equipment mounted on planes and special sights to help troops locate snipers in urban warfare.


Monsanto income plunges as Roundup loses ground

Monsanto Co., the world’s biggest seed maker, said Wednesday its fiscal third-quarter net income tumbled 45 percent as it shrank its Roundup weedkiller business amid intense generic competition.

As Roundup sales have flagged, Monsanto last year said it was accelerating its long-term strategy to shift the majority of its business from chemicals and herbicides to genetically altered seeds.

But the transition has been rougher than expected as growing generic competition from China drives steep declines in Roundup sales, and Monsanto has struggled to entice farmers to buy up its pricey genetically modified seed.


Celgene acquiring Abraxis in $2.9 billion biotech deal

Biotechnology company Celgene said Wednesday it is expanding its array of cancer treatments with a deal to buy Abraxis BioScience Inc. for $2.9 billion in cash and stock.

Celgene said the transaction could add $1 billion to its annual sales by 2015. The company is hoping it will be able to “re-energize” sales of Abraxis’ only approved drug, the breast cancer treatment Abraxane, and also win approval for Abraxane as a treatment for skin, lung and pancreatic cancer. If that happens, the value of the deal could grow to more than $3.55 billion.


Tesla shares soar, then cool in second day of trading

Shares of Tesla Motors Inc. spiked Wednesday as investors continued bidding up the stock following the electric car maker’s blowout public offering. The excitement cooled late in the session, with shares ending down slightly on the day.

In its second day of trading, Tesla shares soared 27 percent by midday to peak at $30.42 before investors took profits off the table. The stock finished 6 cents lower at $23.83, still 40 percent above its $17 IPO price.