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Stocks rise...Contractors say health-care site needed more testing...Mortgage rates drop

Thursday - 10/24/2013, 3:20pm  ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks are higher on Wall Street after positive earnings news from Ford and other major U.S. companies. This is a busy week for corporate earnings. Roughly a third of the S&P 500 will report results, including some of the world's best-known companies. Microsoft and are among those reporting after the market closes today.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two contractors responsible for building the website say more testing was needed before it went online. Executives of CGI Federal Inc. and Quality Software Services Inc. told a House committee today that they tested their own components independently, but they say the Health and Human Services department was responsible for testing the whole system from end to end. And they say that didn't happen until the last couple of weeks before the system's launch on Oct. 1.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average rates on fixed mortgages in the U.S. have dropped this week to their lowest levels in four months. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year loan fell to 4.13 percent, down from 4.28 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan declined to 3.24 percent from 3.33 percent. Both averages are the lowest since June 20.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- There's further evidence that the job market that has weakened after a promising start to the year. The Labor Department says U.S. employers advertised 75,000 more jobs in August but hiring was essentially flat. Job postings rose to a seasonally adjusted 3.9 million in August and July's total was revised much higher to 3.8 million. Still, the number of job openings has changed little since February.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to open up to 110 new stores in China in the next three years while the world's largest retailer seeks to make the business there more profitable. It's also closing some underperforming stores. Wal-Mart says it will focus on developing supercenters and Sam's Clubs in China while remodeling existing stores. Wal-Mart operates about 400 stores in China.

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