Weak Economy Pulls Down Mortgages

Published December 8, 2006

Mortgage rates around the country fell this week, with rates on 30-year mortgages dipping to the second lowest level of the year, pushed down by further signs of economic weakness. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.11 percent, down from 6.14 percent last week. The only time rates have been lower this year was the week of Jan. 19 when the 30-year mortgage dipped to 6.10 percent.

New jobless claims take a tumble

The number of newly laid-off workers filing for unemployment benefits dropped last week by the largest amount in six months, relieving worries about a big jump in claims in the previous week. In all, 324,000 claims were filed last week - a decline of 34,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

WellCare medical officer resigns

The chief medical officer of fast-growing WellCare Health Plans Inc. has resigned effective Dec. 31. Dr. Ace Hodgin, who is also senior vice president of the Tampa insurer, is leaving to pursue other career opportunities. Hodgin, who joined WellCare in July 2004, made $430,385 last year in salary and bonus.

Stock market observers bullish

Optimism about U.S. stocks rose to the highest since 2005, according to Investors Intelligence, after the economy expanded at a faster rate last quarter than first reported without stoking inflation. The percentage of bullish newsletter writers increased to 59.8 percent in the week ended Dec. 1, the highest since December 2005, from 57.5 percent the previous week, the New Rochelle, New York-based newsletter said.

Builder of trucking empire dies at 79

Johnnie Bryan Hunt Sr., a former truck driver who founded one of the nation's largest trucking companies, died Thursday, the company announced. He was 79. Hunt hit his head on ice in a fall Saturday. A sharecropper's son, he began J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. in 1969 with five tractors and seven trailers. By 2004, when Hunt stepped down as senior chairman, the company was a billion-dollar business with more than 16,000 employees and a fleet of some 11,000 trucks.

Liberty Media tocontrol DirecTV

Liberty Media Corp. will gain control over the satellite television broadcaster DirecTV Group Inc. in a deal that will settle a long-running dispute between two powerful media figures, Rupert Murdoch and John Malone, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions. Murdoch, who controls News Corp., has reached a verbal agreement with Malone to swap News Corp.'s 39 percent interest in DirecTV for Liberty's 19 percent voting stake in News Corp., according to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.