SC business notebook, July 19

Haley: Dredging yacht basin, waterways good for business

Gov. Nikki Haley says that dredging the Harbour Town Yacht Basin and other waterways at Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton head Island is good boats and business. The Island Packet of Hilton Head reported that Haley visited Hilton Head Island on Wednesday for what she called a celebration of getting permits for the dredging work. It’s been almost a decade since the yacht basin at Harbour Town and other nearby waterways have been dredged. Haley said finishing the project will allow boats to pass more easily and remove an impediment to business on the island. Officials hope to have the dredging done in time for next year’s RBC Heritage golf tournament so large yachts can again call at Harbour Town during the tournament.

Stocks close at record levels on earnings gains

Stocks closed at record levels as investors were encouraged by earnings gains at major U.S. companies and good news on the economy. Unemployment claims fell and manufacturing surged in the mid-Atlantic region. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 78 points, or 0.5 percent, to 15,548 Thursday, led by UnitedHealth Group and IBM. The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose eight, or 0.5 percent, to 1,689. The Nasdaq edged up a point to 3,611.

Rates decline on fixed mortgages

Average rates on U.S. fixed mortgages declined this week as concern waned in the financial markets over the Federal Reserve’s possible slowing of its bond purchases this year. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average on the 30-year loan slipped to 4.37 percent. That’s down from 4.51 percent last week but is still near the highest level in nearly two years. Just two months ago the rate was 3.35 percent, barely above the record low of 3.31 percent. The average on the 15-year mortgage fell to 3.41 percent from 3.53 percent.

Moody’s upgrades U.S. debt to ‘Stable’ from ‘Negative’

Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the outlook for U.S. government debt to “Stable” from “Negative” and affirmed the United States’ blue-chip AAA rating. The rating agency cited a surprising drop in the federal deficit – the difference between what the government collects in taxes and what it spends. The U.S. government is on track to report its lowest annual deficit in five years. Through the first eight months of the budget year, the deficit has totaled $509.8 billion, according to the Treasury. That’s nearly $400 billion lower than the same period last year.

The Associated Press contributed.