Barnes & Noble, Microsoft end Nook arrangement

Bookseller Barnes & Noble said Thursday it is ending its commercial agreement with Microsoft for its Nook e-book reader ahead of its planned Nook spinoff.

The news came as the largest U.S. traditional bookseller reported second-quarter net income that missed expectations.

In 2012 Microsoft paid $300 million for a 17.6 percent stake in Barnes & Noble’s college bookstores and Nook business. On Thursday Barnes & Noble said it will buy out Microsoft’s stake for $125 million.

Starbucks pushing snacks, accepts smartphone orders

Starbucks plans to let customers across the U.S. order ahead on their smartphones over the next year, a move that should help shrink lines as it pushes more snacks, sandwiches and even wine.

In select areas, the chain also plans to offer delivery by late 2015.

The new ordering options and a dramatic increase in U.S. food sales were part of the plans Starbucks executives laid out to drive up profit over the next five years. To convince more people to get something to eat with their drinks, Starbucks has already revamped its baked goods and introduced new sandwiches, snacks and salads.

The push has been paying off. In its most recent quarter, the company said breakfast sandwich sales rose by 30 percent. Still, it said its share of the fast-food lunch market remains at around 2 percent.

Starbucks says its food push will be helped by making beer and wine available in up to 25 percent of its 12,000 U.S. stores over the next five years.

Amazon launches diaper line for Prime members

Amazon is launching its own line of diapers and baby wipes exclusively for its Prime members to get more shoppers to sign up for the $99 annual program. The new line is called Amazon Elements.

The Seattle company has been investing heavily in services for its loyalty program, Prime, which has an estimated 40 million members.

Freddie Mac reports mortage rates dropping

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage fell this week to 3.89 percent, an 18-month low, from 3.97 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac’s survey of lenders.

The average for a 15-year fixed-rate home loan fell to 3.1 percent from 3.17 percent. Start rates for adjustable mortgages also eased, Freddie Mac said.

Fewer Americans filing for unemployment claims

Fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as employers retained staff to meet domestic demand for goods and services ahead of the holiday season.

Jobless claims decreased by 17,000 to 297,000 in the week ended Nov. 29 from 314,000 in the prior period, the Labor Department said. The median forecast of 46 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a decline to 295,000.

— From news service reports