Stocks higher...Jobless claims tick upward...So do mortgage rates and leading indicators

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Associated Press

Posted on August 22, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 22 at 12:00 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Encouraging news from Europe and China has sent stocks higher in early trading on Wall Street, despite more bleak earnings from retailers. A survey showed China's manufacturing slowdown stabilized in August and a report in Europe showed that the manufacturing and services are improving. But stocks of U.S. retail chains are falling. Abercrombie & Fitch plunged 21 percent after the teen retailer reported a 33 percent drop in net income in the second quarter.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits has gone up again, after reaching the lowest level in 5 ½ years. The Labor Department says 13,000 more people applied for unemployment benefits last week, for a seasonally adjusted total of 336,000. But the four-week average, which smooths week-to-week fluctuations, fell for the sixth week in a row to 330,500. That's the lowest for the average since November 2007. Weekly applications have fallen 10 percent since January.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A gauge of the U.S. economy's health is pointing to stronger growth in the second half of the year. The Conference Board says its index of leading indicators increased 0.6 percent last month. The solid gain suggests economic growth is picking up after a weak start. The economy grew at an annual rate of 1.4 percent from January through June. Many economists expect growth could improve to a 2.5 percent rate in the second half of 2013.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages have risen to their highest levels in two years. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year loan jumped to 4.58 percent this week, up from 4.40 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan rose to 3.60 percent from 3.44 percent. Both averages are the highest since July 2011. Rates have risen more than a full percentage point since May.

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (AP) — Sears' second-quarter loss widened as the number of stores in operation declined and the retailer spun off its Hometown and Outlet brand. For the period that ended Aug. 3, Sears Holdings Corp. lost $194 million, or $1.83 per share. Excluding one-time charges, it lost $1.46 per share. Revenue declined 6 percent, mostly due to store closings. Revenue at Kmart stores open at least a year fell 2.1 percent.

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