WASHINGTON – The average U.S. rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage fell to a new record low last week, and the rate on the 30-year fixed loan declined. Cheaper mortgages have encouraged more home-buying and refinancing.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate for the 15-year fixed mortgage slipped to 2.56 percent. That’s the lowest on records dating to 1991. It fell from 2.61 percent last week, the previous record.
The rate on the 30-year loan declined to 3.35 percent from 3.40 percent last week. That’s near the average rate of 3.31 percent reached in November, the lowest on records dating back to 1971.
Low mortgage rates have helped sustain a housing recovery that began last year. Home prices and sales are rising, and construction is up.
Texting losing popularity
NEW YORK – Americans are saying goodbye to text messaging, a wireless industry group says, as Internet-based applications such as Apple’s Messages are starting to take over from what was once a cash cow for phone companies.
CTIA – The Wireless Association says Americans sent 2.2 trillion text messages last year, down 5 percent from 2011. That’s still 19 text messages per person per day.
Text messages vaulted into the mainstream in 2007, despite often costing 10 cents each. Costs came down quickly as phone companies started selling monthly “bundles” of texts. Now, many phone companies give text messaging away for free as part of a plan that mainly meters data used. That has helped stave off mass migration to Internet chat applications and Facebook messaging, but texting is still declining in popularity.
New job titles at Starbucks
NEW YORK – Starbucks Corp. is making management changes it says will give its top leaders deeper experience with the company.
The world’s biggest coffee chain declined to say whether the changes were part of succession planning for Howard Schultz, who returned as CEO in 2008 and has since led a turnaround of the company.
John Culver, head of the China and Asia Pacific region, was named to the newly created role of group president of China and Asia Pacific, channel development and emerging brands.
Cliff Burrows, head of the Americas, was named to the newly created role of group president of the Americas and U.S., Europe, Middle East and Africa and Teavana.
Intel picks new leader
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Intel has chosen its chief operating officer, Brian Krzanich, to become its new CEO.
The company said Thursday that Krzanich will take over as CEO on May 16 when Paul Otellini steps down from the position and its board.
The 52-year-old Krzanich has worked at Intel Corp. since 1982.
$1 Cravings coming soon
NEW YORK – Taco Bell says its new value menu may go national in coming months.
The fast-food chain had already said in January that it was testing a “$1 Cravings” menu that would replace its “Why Pay More” menu, which has tiered pricing.
In a call with reporters Thursday, executives at the chain said they’re confident they’ve struck on the right mix of products for a national rollout this year. But they declined to specify a date.
The latest iteration of the $1 Cravings menu has 12 items, including new offerings such as shredded chicken mini quesadillas.
Fast-food chains have been focusing on value at a time when the industry is barely growing. McDonald’s is touting its Dollar Menu, and Burger King is highlighting more deals.
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