Fixed mortgage rates fall; now at or near record lows

Fixed mortgage rates fell to at or near record lows. That’s good news for the few who can afford to buy a home or are able to refinance.

Freddie Mac says the average rate for the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 4.32 percent this week from 4.39 percent. The 30-year loan hit a record low of 4.17 percent in mid-November.

The average rate on a 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, fell to a record low of 3.50 percent, from last week’s record rate of 3.54 percent.

Mortgage rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. A weakening U.S. economy has led many investors to shift money from stocks to bonds, which are seen as safer bets. That has pushed Treasury yields to historic lows.

Goldman Sachs chairman’s worth drops by $52 million

Lloyd C. Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group, lost about $52 million of his personal wealth this month — more than the combined losses of four other Wall Street CEOs.

The heads of Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs saw the value of their combined shareholdings fall by $94 million on paper since July 29, based on regulatory filings. That includes a $40 million plunge Thursday.

Homes receiving default notices down by 7% in June

Fewer U.S. homes entered the foreclosure process or were seized by lenders in July, the latest sign banks are taking a measured approach to moving against homeowners who have fallen behind on mortgage payments.

Some 59,516 homes received an initial default notice last month, down 7 percent from June and down 39 percent from July 2010, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

The notices, which are the first step in the foreclosure process, have fallen 58 percent below their April 2009 peak.

Homes scheduled for auction also declined in July, while the number of homes seized by banks slipped 1 percent from June and slid 27 percent versus July last year, the firm said.

Verizon calls in the FBI to probe alleged sabotage

Talks between Verizon and striking workers continue as the company enlists the FBI to look into alleged sabotage of some of its network facilities.

Spokesman Rich Young said Thursday the company has discovered more than 90 acts of sabotage since the strike began over the weekend. Young said wires have been cut, resulting in the loss of phone and Internet service for residences and businesses. The company, based in New York City, said a small town police department and a hospital have been affected.

FBI spokesman Bryan Travers said the bureau is looking into the allegations.

About 45,000 Verizon landline workers went on strike Sunday from Massachusetts to Virginia, fighting management demands for contract givebacks.

Beer sales in China boost profits for Anheuser-Busch

The world’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev NV said Thursday that second-quarter profits rose by more than a quarter as higher sales in China made up for declining demand in the U.S. and Brazil.

The Asian-Pacific region, led by China, is now AB InBev’s third biggest market, cushioning the brewer from difficult economic conditions in its traditional sales bases.

Beer volumes in China, where AB InBev is pushing its Budweiser as well as Harbin and Sedrin brands, rose 12 percent in the second quarter, compared with a year earlier.

The company’s net profit swelled to $1.45 billion from $1.15 billion.

— From news service reports