Last Update on December 05, 2013 18:35 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy grew at a 3.6 percent annual rate from July through September, the fastest since early 2012. But nearly half the growth came from a buildup in business stockpiles, a trend that could reverse in the current quarter and hold back growth.
The Commerce Department's second estimate of third-quarter growth was much higher than the initial 2.8 percent rate reported last month. And it was well above the 2.5 percent growth rate for the April-June quarter.
But almost the entire third-quarter revision came from a big jump in stockpiles. Consumer spending, the lifeblood of the economy, was the weakest in nearly four years.
When excluding inventories, the economy grew at a 1.9 percent rate in the third quarter, down from 2.1 percent in the spring.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. factories received fewer orders in October, as aircraft demand fell and businesses cut back on computers. The decline suggests companies were hesitant to invest during the 16-day partial government shutdown.
The Commerce Department says factory orders dropped 0.9 percent in October. That followed a 1.8 percent increase in September.
A big reason for the decline in October was a steep drop in orders for aircraft.
But core capital goods, which are a proxy for business investment, dropped 0.6 percent. Economists watch this category closely because it excludes volatile orders for aircraft and defense equipment.
Much of the decline in that category came from a drop in demand for computers. Demand picked up for primary metals, household appliances and oil and gas field machinery.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits tumbled 23,000 last week to 298,000, nearly a six-year low that shows companies are laying off fewer workers.
The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week moving average declined 10,750 to 322,250.
Last week's jobless claims nearly matched a September figure, which was distorted by late reporting from California. When excluding the September report, last week's figures were the lowest since May 2007.
Applications have fallen seven of the past eight weeks, a hopeful sign for job growth at the end of the year. The decline has corresponded with stronger hiring in recent months.
Last week included the Thanksgiving holiday, which can present challenges for seasonal adjustments. But government officials say there were no special factors affecting the report.
CHICAGO (AP) -- Planned job cuts in November were little changed from October.
Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas says its monthly survey of employers found they planned to cut 45,314 workers from their payrolls in November, just 0.9 percent less than a month earlier.
However, the November cuts were down 21 percent from the same month a year ago, for a second straight month of year-over-year declines.
For the year to date, employers say there are 2.5 percent fewer job cuts than during the first 11 months of 2012.
The financial sector had the most job cuts through November, more than 59,000. Challenger says that's largely because the flood of foreclosures and refinancing after the recession has been waning, and banks are shedding the extra workers who were added to handle them.
FAST-FOOD PROTESTS UPDATE
NEW YORK (AP) -- Fast-food workers and labor organizers are marching, waving signs and chanting in cities across the country amid a push for higher wages.
Organizers say walkouts are planned in 100 cities, with rallies set for another 100 cities. Labor unions, worker advocacy groups and Democrats are hoping to build public support to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25, or about $15,000 a year for full-time work.
Protesters are calling for pay of $15 an hour, but the figure is seen more as a rallying point than a near-term possibility.
In New York City, about 100 protesters blew whistles and beat drums while marching into a McDonald's at around 6:30 a.m. One startled customer grabbed his food and fled as they flooded the restaurant, while another didn't look up from eating and reading amid their chants of "We can't survive on $7.25!"
Community leaders took turns giving speeches for about 15 minutes until the police arrived and ordered protesters out of the store.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The leader of House Democrats says her rank and file won't support any year-end budget deal unless it includes plans to extend expiring unemployment benefits for long-term victims of the recession.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California made the comment today as senior lawmakers struggled elsewhere in the Capitol to find a compromise that would ease across-the-board cuts in the budget that both parties would like to eliminate.
Majority Republicans in the House have not ruled out extending the benefits that are due to begin expiring on Dec. 28, but say they have no plans to pursue legislation on their own.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday called on Congress to approve an extension, and House Speaker John Boehner today said he was looking for a White House proposal on the issue.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Speaker John Boehner says the farm bill should be extended through January while negotiators work out differences on cuts to food stamps and how to restructure farm subsidies.
Negotiators are working against a New Year's deadline for expiration of some dairy subsidies. If those subsidies expire, new laws will kick in that could result in higher prices for a gallon of milk.
Boehner said Thursday he hasn't "seen any real progress" on the farm bill. That's in contrast to comments from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, who said Wednesday that negotiators have made "great progress."
Cuts to the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program are a major sticking point in talks.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages rose sharply this week, making home-buying slightly less affordable.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year loan jumped to 4.46 percent from 4.29 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan increased to 3.47 percent from 3.30 percent.
Rates have risen a full percentage point since May after the Federal Reserve signaled it might slow its bond purchases by year's end. Rates peaked at 4.6 percent in August.
Mortgage rates have stabilized since September, when the Fed surprised markets by taking no action. And rates remain low by historical standards. The Fed meets later this month and could slow the bond purchases if the economy shows further improvement.
The bond purchases are designed to keep long-term rates low.
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- The American Civil Liberties Union has sued a federal agency, asking it to disclose efforts to stop municipalities from using eminent domain to bail out underwater homeowners.
The ACLU and the Center for Popular Democracy filed a freedom of information lawsuit against the Federal Housing Finance Agency on Thursday in federal court in San Francisco.
Richmond, Calif., plans to use eminent domain to stem the tide of foreclosures. Irvington, N.J., is also moving forward with the strategy.
The ACLU wants the federal agency to divulge its ties to the financial industry and plans to block cities from using the tactic.
The lawsuit says the agency has aggressively gone after municipalities that have floated the idea of using eminent domain.
A spokeswoman for the agency didn't immediately comment on the lawsuit.
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- The world's largest casino company is cautioning investors that Internet gambling might hurt rather than help its brick-and-mortar casinos.
Caesars Entertainment, which owns four of Atlantic City's 12 casinos, wrote in a filing with securities regulators late Wednesday that online gambling could reduce patron visits to its casinos in New Jersey and Nevada, and harm the company's bottom line.
A company spokesman downplayed the warning, telling The Associated Press it had to be included for legal reasons, regardless of how likely or unlikely the company believes a potential risk to be.
Even before Internet gambling started in New Jersey last month, some feared it might hurt land-based casinos by eliminating the need to visit Atlantic City. The casinos are offering comps to online players redeemable at the casinos.
DETROIT (AP) -- The top-selling car in America will soon get an update.
Toyota says it's a couple of weeks away from unveiling changes to the midsize Camry sedan, which has only seen a modest sales gain this year.
Bill Fay, head of the Toyota division in the U.S., says the update includes making the front-end stronger to pass a new crash test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Fay isn't disclosing when the revamped Camry might go on sale. He says engineers are still working on the car.
Through November, Camry sales grew only 1.3 percent to nearly 379,000. Sales for its main rival, the Honda Accord, are up almost 11 percent to over 324,000.
Fay says the changes will help Camry in the most competitive segment in the U.S.
BERLIN (AP) -- General Motors Co. says it plans to largely withdraw its Chevrolet brand from Europe from the beginning of 2016, focusing more sharply on its main Opel and Vauxhall brands.
GM said Thursday that Chevrolet will no longer have a "mainstream presence" in Europe and said the decision was "largely due to a challenging business model and the difficult economic situation" on the continent.
GM has continued to lose money in Europe even as its performance elsewhere improves.
The company says Chevrolet will still offer "select iconic vehicles" such as the Corvette in Europe and will retain a broad presence in Russia.
CEO Dan Akerson says GM's European operation will benefit from a stronger Opel and Vauxhall and from plans to expand the Cadillac brand's presence.
NEW YORK (AP) -- The solar panel installer SolarCity is beginning to address one of solar power's big drawbacks: The sun doesn't always shine.
The solution: big battery packs. The supplier: electric car maker Tesla Motors, whose CEO is also the chairman of SolarCity.
The battery packs will allow customers a way to provide backup power and lower electric bills.
The batteries will be offered first to commercial customers because of the way many commercial electric bills are calculated. SolarCity is also conducting a pilot program in California for homeowners, but because residential bills are calculated differently -- and the batteries are expensive -- it could be years before batteries make financial sense for homes.
SolarCity won't charge customers for the battery, but will instead offer it as a service for a monthly fee.