Business

Business Notebook, Nov. 28

Settlement clears runway for airline merger

A federal bankruptcy judge is approving the settlement in the U.S. government’s antitrust lawsuit against American Airlines and US Airways, clearing the airlines to complete their merger early next month. Judge Sean Lane ruled Wednesday in New York that the settlement didn’t upset American’s bankruptcy-reorganization plan, which he had already given conditional approval back in September. The judge is also rejecting a move by a group of consumers to delay the merger while they pursue their own antitrust lawsuit against the airlines. The ruling is not a surprise. American and US Airways hope to close their merger on Dec. 9 and create the world’s biggest airline, slightly larger than United or Delta.

Mortgage rates ease upward

Average U.S. mortgage rates rose modestly this week, a move that makes home-buying a bit less affordable. Still, rates remain near historically low levels. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year loan increased to 4.29 percent from 4.22 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed ticked up to 3.3 percent from 3.27 percent. Rates have risen nearly a full percentage point since May after the Federal Reserve signaled it might slow its bond purchases by the end of the year. Rates peaked at nearly 4.6 percent in August. But the Fed held off in September and most analysts expect it won’t move until next year. The increase in mortgage rates has contributed to a slowdown in home sales over the past two months.

Number seeking jobless benefits drops

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped 10,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 316,000, a sign that workers are in less danger of being laid off. The less volatile four-week average fell 7,500 to 331,750, the Labor Department said Wednesday. Both the first-time weekly jobless claims and the average have returned to pre-recession levels. Unemployment benefit applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have fallen in six of the past seven weeks. A government spokesman said there were no special factors that drove claims lower but cautioned that it can be difficult to seasonally adjust in late November because the Thanksgiving holiday occurs at different times each year. This year Thanksgiving is a week later than last year.

Settlement reached after beef recall

Several California slaughterhouses and meat-packing facilities have agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement after allegations of inhumane treatment at their facilities led to a massive beef recall that included meat sold to the National School Lunch Program. The settlement is valued at $155 million, but the federal government and the Humane Society of the United States expect to collect only about $3 million under terms announced Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed.

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