Business Roundup for Thursday, March 6.

New York Stock Exchange (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)


NEW YORK (AP) — The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed at another all-time high following encouraging news about the U.S. job market. The S&P 500 rose three points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 1,877 Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 61 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,421. The Nasdaq composite lost five points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,352. The number of people who filed for unemployment benefits last week fell more than economists were expecting. That's a sign fewer workers are being laid off. Staples plunged 15 percent after the office supply chain said it would close 10 percent of its stores. Nearly half of its sales are now generated online. Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose to 2.74 percent.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve says the stock market surge and rebounding home prices at the end of last year pushed Americans' wealth to a record high. Household net worth jumped nearly $3 trillion during the last three months of 2013, to $80.7 trillion. Stock and mutual fund portfolios gained nearly $1.7 trillion, or 9 percent. The value of Americans' homes rose just over $400 billion, a 2 percent gain. And checking account balances, pensions plan assets and retirement savings, such as 401(k)s, also increased. However, the gains have slowed so far in 2014.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average rates on fixed mortgages have fallen after three weeks of increases, edging closer to historically low levels. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate for the 30-year loan declined this week to 4.28 percent from 4.37 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage fell to 3.32 percent from 3.39 percent.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky transportation officials are suing the crew of a cargo ship that struck and collapsed part of a bridge, causing millions in damage and diverting traffic for four months. The state Transportation Cabinet says in a lawsuit moved to federal court this week that it spent at least $7 million to repair the Eggner's Ferry Bridge over the Tennessee River after the Delta Mariner struck it on Jan. 26, 2012. The lawsuit says the ship's crew ignored warnings from the Coast Guard that the bridge's navigation lights were out.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google's mystery barge is floating toward its new home in California's delta after being ordered to leave San Francisco. The barge departed from Treasure Island early today to comply with a regulatory order concluding that Google didn't have the proper permits to build the four-story vessel there. Google says the odd-looking vessel is moving 80 miles east to Stockton, where it will eventually serve as an interactive technology center.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking unemployment benefits has fallen to its lowest level in three months. The Labor Department says applications for jobless benefits dropped by 26,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 323,000. The less volatile four-week average fell slightly to a seasonally adjusted 336,500. The Labor Department releases its February jobs report tomorrow.


WASHINGTON (AP) — It turns out U.S. productivity grew at an even slower annual rate than previously thought in the final three months of last year. The Labor Department says the amount of production per hour of output grew at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in the October-December quarter. The new estimate is lower than the 3.2 percent gain the government had previously reported and a slowdown from 3.5 percent productivity growth in the third quarter.


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Commerce Department says orders to U.S. factories fell in January for a second straight month, and declined more than first reported in December. Orders dipped 0.7 percent in January following a 2 percent decline December. Demand for durable goods was down 1 percent while non-durable goods orders slipped 0.4 percent. But orders for core capital goods, a key category that signals business investment plans, rose 1.5 percent in January after a 1.6 percent drop in December.


FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (AP) — Staples will close up to 225 stores in North America by the end of next year as it seeks to trim about $500 million in costs annually by 2015. The nation's largest office-supply retailer says nearly half of its sales are now generated online, so it will aggressively cut costs to become more efficient.

TOKYO (AP) — International stock markets rose today ahead of a monthly policy meeting of the European Central Bank. Easing tensions in the Ukraine kept markets stable after their recent bout of volatility. The dollar gained against the yen and was little changed against the euro. Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell but remained above $101 a barrel.

UNDATED — Investors will focus on the government's weekly jobless claims number today. Other government reports that should be of interest include fourth-quarter productivity data and January's factory orders. Also, Freddie Mac will release weekly mortgage rates. Several chain retailers release February sales comparisons today, and Kroger and H&R Block report earnings.

SINGAPORE (AP) — The CEO of a virtual currency exchange was found dead in her home in Singapore. A police spokesman says today that initial investigations indicated there was no suspicion of "foul play," meaning officers do not suspect murder. The spokesman said 28-year-old Autumn Radtke First Meta, an American, was found dead in Feb. 26. Police have so far classified the death as "unnatural." First Meta allows users of virtual currencies such as bitcoin to trade and cash out the currencies. The future of bitcoin has been under scrutiny since the collapse of the Mt. Gox exchange in Tokyo last month.

BEIJING (AP) — China's finance minister says creating jobs is a bigger priority this year than strictly meeting economic growth goals. The economic target announced this week is "about 7.5 percent," and the official says that could mean lower actual growth. At a news conference during the annual meeting of China's legislature, the minister says jobs are the most important factor.

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