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The Journal Gazette

Friday, December 14, 2018 1:00 am

Briefs

Mortgage rates lowest in 3 months

News services

WASHINGTON – U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week to their lowest level in three months, an inducement to prospective homebuyers in a haltingly recovering market.

Continued steep declines in the stock market pushed home borrowing rates lower, although they remain much higher than a year ago. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 4.63 percent from to 4.75 percent last week. The key rate stood at 3.93 percent a year ago.

The rate on 15-year fixed-rate loans fell to 4.07 percent from 4.21 percent the previous week.

As mortgage rates have ended the year with declines, prospective buyers have been wading in. Mortgage applications in the week ended Dec. 7 rose 1.6 percent from a week earlier, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Refinance applications increased 2 percent, while applications for home purchases were up 3 percent.

GE stock surges as analyst turns upbeat

General Electric soared as the stock's biggest bear finally had something positive to say about the crisis-stricken manufacturer.

Steve Tusa, the JPMorgan Chase analyst who has had a sell rating on GE for more than two years, upgraded the shares to neutral Thursday as he said the “known unknowns” weighing on the balance sheet are better understood. It's possible, he said in a note, that GE can pull off a recovery without another major stumble.

The unexpectedly upbeat sentiment sent the shares up as much as 12 percent in New York, the biggest intra-day gain in a month. A separate announcement from GE about a reorganization of its digital business also buoyed the stock, which rose 7.9 percent to $7.24 a share at 12:30 p.m.

The gain was welcome news for investors after a whopping 62 percent decline this year through Wednesday.

Renault at odds with Nissan on Ghosn pay

A Renault probe found that jailed Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn's compensation at the French carmaker complied with French law, sending another signal of division with its alliance partner Nissan.

A preliminary review of the years between 2015 and 2018 found nothing amiss on pay to the executive, who was indicted in Japan for understating his income, Renault said in a statement Thursday.

The board opted to keep in place interim top management and not oust him, saying it doesn't have information about Ghosn's defense.

Renault also agreed to jointly investigate with Nissan their alliance's Amsterdam-based holding company called RNBV, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Allstate's wildfire claims $1.2 billion

Allstate has paid out more than $1.2 billion to victims of two devastating wildfires in California.

The insurer Wednesday announced estimated November losses of $685 million before taxes, including an estimated $670 million related to the Camp Fire in Northern California and the Woolsey Fires near Los Angeles. That's despite cutting in half the number of policies Allstate issues in California over the past decade.

Part of the losses tied to the fires will be covered by reinsurance, which is a form of coverage that insurance companies buy.