Retail sales rose in May
U.S. retail sales rose modestly in May as consumers turned cautious in their spending. But the weaker-than-expected result is unlikely to derail stronger overall in the second quarter.
Retail sales rose 0.3 percent in May, helped by a jump in demand for autos, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The result follows a 0.5 percent climb in April, which was revised up from an initial estimate of 0.1 percent. March sales surged 1.5 percent – the biggest one-month gain in four years.
House votes for tax breaks to help small businesses
The House voted Thursday to make permanent a generous tax break that makes it easier for small businesses to buy new equipment and improve their property, part of an election-year showdown over a series of expired tax breaks worth billions.
The tax break allows business owners to more quickly write off the costs of computers, machinery and other equipment, as well as improvements to retail property. It expired at the beginning of the year, along with more than 50 other temporary tax breaks that Congress routinely extends.
The vote was 272 to 144 in favor of the bill. House Republicans said the bill is part of a broader effort to add more certainty to the tax code.
Amazon Prime members to get music streaming service
Amazon is launching a music streaming service for its Prime members, adding yet another freebie to its popular free-shipping plan ahead of the expected unveiling of its first smartphone next week.
Starting Thursday, Amazon.com Inc. will offer more than a million tracks for ad-free streaming and download to Kindle Fire tablets as well as to computers and the Amazon Music app for Apple and Android devices. The service, called Prime Music, is likely to be integrated with an Amazon smartphone expected to be previewed on Wednesday.
People who pay $99 a year for Prime can listen to tens of thousands of albums. By adding music, Amazon is hoping to hook new customers and retain existing ones on its Prime free-shipping plan, which also allows subscribers to watch streams of movies and TV shows and gives Kindle owners a library of books they can borrow once a month.
Fixed mortgage rates up but still near historic lows
Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages rose this week for a second straight week but remained near historic lows.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate for a 30-year loan increased to 4.20 percent from 4.14 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage jumped to 3.31 percent from 3.23 percent.
Mortgage rates are about a quarter of a percentage point higher than they were at the same time last year.