Mortgage rates

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 said Thursday the average rate on the 30-year loan slipped to 4.37 percent from 4.51 percent last week. Just two months ago the rate was 3.35 percent.

Morgan Stanley

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Morgan Stanley is feeling good about its future. The New York bank said Thursday that it will buy back up to $500 million of its own shares, news that surprised investors and helped boost the share price by 4 percent. It also reported higher earnings and revenue for the second quarter, helped by gains in both its investment bank and wealth management.

Dell's future

Dell Inc. has delayed Thursday's vote on founder Michael Dell's plan to take the computer maker private. That's a sign the board needs more time to rally support.

Crude hits high

The price of oil shot to a 16-month high Thursday on signs the U.S. job market is improving, although not by enough to prompt the Federal Reserve to pull back on its bond-buying program. Benchmark crude for August delivery rose $1.56 to finish at $108.04 per barrel, the highest close since March 19, 2012.

Deficit or Economy

Chairman Ben Bernanke said Thursday that Congress could do more to help the U.S. economy this year but instead has focused on reducing the federal deficit. During his second appearance before lawmakers this week, Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee that the Fed's low interest rate policies have carried "an awful lot of the burden" to drive economic growth.

Leading indicators

A gauge of the economy's future health was unchanged in June, pointing to modest growth in the coming months. The Conference Board, a business research group, said Thursday that its index of leading indicators remained at 95.3 in June. The flat reading followed increases of 0.2 percent in May and 0.8 percent in April.

Manufacturing grows

Manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region grew in July at the fastest pace in more than two years, suggesting factories may help support economic growth in the second half of the year. Regional manufacturing activity jumped to 19.8 in July. That's up from 12.5 in June and the highest since March 2011.

MW buys Abbound

Men's Wearhouse is buying the Joseph Abboud brand for about $97.5 million in cash in a deal that will broaden the company's roster of exclusive brands. The news follows the firing of founder George Zimmer last month.

Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless added more wireless devices than expected in the latest quarter and boosted service revenues by 8 percent from a year ago.

continuing a strong run for the largest U.S. cellphone carrier. Its closest rival, AT&T, is seeing revenue increases of around 4 percent.

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