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Tech stocks trying to stay in positive territory ... More Americans applying for jobless benefits ... Mortgage rates fall

Thursday - 4/17/2014, 11:50am  ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- Tech stocks are struggling to stay in positive territory after a slump earlier this morning. At 10:40 a.m. Eastern Time, the S&P 500 is up almost 1 point, at 1,863. The Dow Jones industrial average is down 11 points, at 16,414. And the Nasdaq is down 12 points, at 4,099.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department says the number of people applying for unemployment benefits last week rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 304,000. Jobless claims continue to be near pre-recession levels despite the slight increase. The government says the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, fell 4,750 to 312,000. That's the lowest four-week average since October 2007, just two months before the Great Recession started.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages have fallen this week for the second straight week as the spring home-buying season begins. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate for a 30-year loan fell to 4.27 percent from 4.34 percent last week. The average for a 15-year mortgage eased to 3.33 percent from 3.38 percent. Mortgage rates have risen about a full percentage point since hitting record lows about a year ago.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) -- Toy maker Mattel is blaming an unexpected first-quarter loss on weak sales of Barbie and markdowns to clear out excess inventory left over from a sluggish holiday season. Its shares fell almost 5 percent in premarket trading. Mattel has been struggling with weakness in core brands, which had a 14 percent drop in sales. The largest U.S. toy maker says its net loss for the three months ended March 31 totaled $11.2 million, or 3 cents per share, compared with net income of $38.5 million, or 11 cents per share last year.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Target is expanding the products available to order by subscription as it fends off its biggest non-traditional retail rival, Target first dabbled with subscriptions last September by making available 150 baby care products. Now the nation's second-largest discounter has expanded the program to nearly 1,600 items available for regular delivery -- everything from beauty products and pet supplies to home office supplies.

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