Mortgage interest rates rise a full point in month

U.S. mortgage rates have suddenly jumped from near-record lows and are adding thousands of dollars to the cost of buying a home.

The average rate on the 30-year fixed loan soared this week to 4.46 percent, according to a report Thursday from mortgage buyer Freddie Mac. That’s the highest average in two years and a full point more than a month ago.

The surge in mortgage rates follows the Federal Reserve’s signal that it could slow its bond purchases later this year.

A pullback by the Fed would likely send long-term interest rates even higher.

Signed contracts on homes hit a six-year high in May

The number of people who signed contracts to buy U.S. homes jumped in May to the highest level in more than six years, a sign home sales will probably rise in the months ahead.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that its seasonally adjusted index for pending home sales rose 6.7 percent to 112.3 last month. That’s the highest level since December 2006. Signed contracts have risen 12.1 percent in the past 12 months.

The increase could reflect an effort by potential buyers to complete deals before mortgage rates rose further.

Mortgage rates rose in May and then jumped after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested last week the Fed could slow its bond purchases later this year.

Suit seeks to ban Corzine from futures trading

Federal regulators have accused former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine of misusing customer money while he was CEO of brokerage firm MF Global, which collapsed in 2011.

A civil lawsuit filed Thursday in New York by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission seeks to ban Corzine from trading in the futures market and demands he pay unspecified penalties.

The lawsuit charges that MF Global violated U.S. commodity laws in the weeks before it collapsed by using customer funds to support its own trading operations. About $1.2 billion in customer money disappeared when the firm collapsed.

EU leaders reach accord on seven-year budget

European Union leaders reached an outline deal Friday on the 27-country bloc’s 960 billion euro, or $1.3 trillion, seven-year budget, overcoming British objections to sign off on the agreement.

British Prime Minister David Cameron had held out for better financial conditions, overshadowing a summit called to approve plans to deal with the continent’s youth unemployment problems.

However, in the end, all 27 nations backed the budget deal. EU President Herman Van Rompuy said “it is a quite clear ‘yes’,” when it came to unanimous backing of the 2014-2020 spending plan.

Microsoft looks to update software much more often

Microsoft Corp., which for decades has refreshed its popular Office corporate software just once about every three years, says it will soon switch to weekly updates.

It’s a radical shift as Microsoft overhauls its Internet-based programs, seeking to stay in sync with the fast-changing technology industry.

For much of Microsoft’s 38-year history, infrequent upgrades made sense for businesses seeking predictable improvements. That’s changed as nimbler entrants such as Dropbox, Box, Jive Software and Google refine features and deliver automatic updates over the Web.

“Microsoft, on this every-three-year schedule for the massive wave of new products, looks like a dinosaur,” said Melissa Webster, an analyst at market-research firm IDC, based in Framingham, Mass.

“Three years is a lifetime in tech these days.”

— From news service reports