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Stocks down slightly...A measure of jobless claims hits 6-year low...Retail sales weak

Thursday - 8/8/2013, 11:48am  ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks are slightly lower after the first hour of trading on Wall Street. Among the factors traders are weighing: China's trade rebounded in July, signaling that its economy may be stabilizing. The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits over the past month has fallen to its lowest level in almost six years. And some retailers are reporting a slow start to the back-to-school shopping season.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A measure of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits over the past month has fallen to its lowest level in almost six years, signaling fewer layoffs. The Labor Department says the four-week average, which smooths week-to-week fluctuations, dropped 6,250 to 335,500. That's the lowest level since November 2007. Weekly applications for unemployment aid increased by 5,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 333,000, up slightly from the previous week's 5½-year low.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Retailers are reporting a slow start to the critical back-to-school shopping season. A preliminary tally of 10 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers finds revenue at stores open at least a year rose 3.8 percent in July, the slowest pace since March. The pace is below June's 5.5 percent increase.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The recovery in the housing market has helped mortgage giant Fannie Mae turn a profit for the sixth quarter in a row. The government-controlled company says it earned $10.1 billion in the second quarter. It says it will pay a dividend of $10.2 billion to the U.S. Treasury next month, and requested no additional federal aid. The government rescued Fannie and smaller sibling Freddie Mac during the financial crisis after both incurred massive losses on risky mortgages.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages barely changed this week. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average on the 30-year loan edged up to 4.40 percent from 4.39 percent last week. The rate is a full percentage point higher than in early May, when rates neared record lows, but remains low by historical standards. The average on the 15-year fixed loan was unchanged at 3.43 percent.

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