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Top News & Analysis United States

  • WASHINGTON-- Average U.S. mortgage rates rose only slightly this week and continued to hover near record lows, a trend that has helped boost home sales and refinancing. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30- year fixed mortgage edged up to 3.41 percent, from 3.37 last week. Three weeks ago, the rate touched 3.36 percent.

  • NEW YORK, Oct 24- Money managers across the United States are avidly watching the Nov. 6 presidential election, gaming out investing strategies in the event of a second term for Barack Obama or a first one for Mitt Romney.

  • HOUSTON-- Oil and natural gas driller Patterson-UTI Energy Inc. said Thursday that its third-quarter net income fell almost 38 percent as demand fell for drilling rigs in the U.S. The company earned $50.8 million, or 33 cents per share, for the quarter that ended Sept. 30.

  • *Coming Up: U.S. Weekly jobless claims at 1230 GMT. LONDON, Oct 25- Brent crude oil rose above $108 per barrel on Thursday, consolidating after seven days of falls as better-than-expected data suggested the world economy was recovering, but analysts said the overall outlook for oil prices was bearish.

  • NEW YORK-- Stocks climbed Thursday on Wall Street, aiming for their first significant advance in more than a week, on the busiest day for quarterly corporate earnings reports. Eight of the 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 index rose. Online game maker Zynga jumped 26 cents to $2.39 after the company reported revenue that was stronger than analysts had anticipated.

  • Emergency authorities in Texas City lifted the shelter-in-place order shortly after 5 a.m. Thursday in a storage tank spill involving hydrochloric acid. Diane Tracy with New Jersey- based Dallas Group of America Inc. says company officials are investigating Wednesday night's accident.

  • This isn't anything new. Years ago, viewers celebrated the presidency of Jed Bartlet on "The West Wing." Fans of "The Wire" savored the ascent of Tommy Carcetti from the Baltimore city council to the Maryland governor's office. Michael J. Fox, and then Charlie Sheen, worked for New York Mayor Winston on the sitcom, "Spin City."

  • GOMA, Congo-- Gold is now the primary source of income for armed groups in eastern Congo, and is ending up in jewelry stores across the world, according to a report published Thursday by the Enough Project.

  • LOS ANGELES-- Four years after a private eye went to prison for wiretapping phones of the rich and famous on behalf of celebrities and Hollywood heavyweights, his clients are facing hefty bills for his skullduggery.

  • NEW YORK-- Stocks are starting higher on Wall Street after investors finally got some better news on the economy and corporate earnings. Procter& Gamble led the Dow Jones industrial average higher after the giant consumer products company reported earnings that beat analysts' expectations.

  • WALTHAM, Mass.-- Raytheon Co. said Thursday that third-quarter income was flat, hurt by a slight drop in revenue and tough comparisons to a prior-year quarter boosted by a hefty tax-related gain. But the profit beat Wall Street predictions and the defense contractor boosted its profit prediction for the full year.

  • HOUSTON-- National Oilwell Varco Inc. said Thursday that third-quarter profit rose 14 percent, and it predicted strong fourth-quarter demand for drilling rigs used in deep water. Net income was $612 million, or $1.43 per share, compared with $532 million, or $1.25 per share, a year earlier.

  • *Makes landfall southwest of Santiago de Cuba. HAVANA, Oct 25- Hurricane Sandy, strengthening rapidly after crossing the warm Caribbean Sea, slammed into southeastern Cuba early on Thursday with 105 mph winds that cut power and blew over trees across the city of Santiago de Cuba.

  • California: Up 26,935, due to layoffs in all sectors, particularly the service industry. Florida: Up 3,947, due to layoffs in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, retail and services. Ohio: Up 1,936, due to layoffs in transportation and manufacturing.

  • HONG KONG/ SHANGHAI, Oct 25- Hong Kong's commitment to its 29- year-old currency peg to the U.S. dollar risks making the already pricey city even more expensive as policymakers try to manage a wave of foreign money seeking to cash in on a potential Chinese recovery.

  • DALLAS-- Two business associates of former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Eugene Lockhart Jr. have been sentenced to prison in a $20 million mortgage scam. A federal judge in Dallas on Wednesday sentenced William Randolph Tisdale Jr. to 10 years for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.

  • BANGKOK-- Her dream was to look less Thai and more like Jennifer Lopez, so the 25- year-old street food vendor went to the Internet and typed in "cheap Botox." That was the start of a five-year makeover for Ratphila Chairungkit that included two nose jobs, two eye-widening surgeries, chin augmentation, lip trimming, skin whitening and dozens of Botox-type injections.

  • PORTLAND, Ore.-- Precision Castparts Corp. said Thursday its fiscal second-quarter net income rose 13 percent on demand for commercial airplane parts and the benefit of recent acquisitions. The company earned $332.7 million, or $2.29 per share, compared with $294.7 million, or $2.07 per share, a year earlier.

  • WASHINGTON-- U.S. companies remained cautious in September and held back on orders for long-lasting manufactured goods that signal investment plans. The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders for durable goods jumped 9.9 a percent last month.

  • The latest numbers show that young adults 25-29 are the primary out-of-state movers; they had the biggest gain in 13 years as they struck out on their own to test the job market in urban, high-tech meccas such as Washington, D.C.; Denver; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; and Austin, Texas.