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    Brookstone sells the uDivine App, uAstro 2 and the uStyle massage chairs in the Stonestown Mall in San Francisco, CA Wednesday January 23rd, 2013. Photo: Michael Short, Special To The Chronicle Brookstone sells the uDivine App, uAstro 2 and the uStyle massage…
    MortgagesLoan rates up slightly

    Average rates on fixed mortgages rose slightly this week but remained near historically low levels.

    Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate for the 30-year loan ticked up to 4.41 percent from 4.40 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage increased to 3.47 percent from 3.42 percent.

    Rates have risen about a full percentage point since hitting record lows about a year ago.

    To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t include points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

    The average fee for a 30-year mortgage rose to 0.7 of a point from 0.6. The fee for a 15-year loan was unchanged at 0.6 of a point.

    The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage edged up to 2.45 percent from 2.44. The average fee held steady at 0.4 of a point.

    The average rate on a five-year adjustable mortgage increased to 3.12 percent from 3.10. The fee remained at 0.5 of a point.

    MediaNew Jersey paper cuts jobs

    New Jersey’s largest newspaper is cutting about 170 jobs, including 25 percent of its newsroom positions, as it moves to consolidate operations and cut costs.

    The Star-Ledger reported Thursday on that the cuts will mean the loss of 40 of the 156 newsroom staffers at the paper.

    Other journalists at the newspaper are being offered jobs at NJ Advance Media, a company being created by parent company Advance Publications to provide content,hair extensions for sale, advertising and marketing services to all of its papers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

    Matt Kraner, the president of the new company and of, which runs a website for the newspapers,hair extensions, said all 36 newsroom employees and 37 business-side workers at the website are also being laid off. He said several of them are being offered jobs at NJ Advance Media.

    Additional journalists are also to be hired for the new company,<font style=»font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-weight: bold;color: #FF9966;font-size: 20px;»>hairstyle</font>.

    When the restructuring is complete on Sept. 8, the number of reporters and photographers working for the Star-Ledger and website combined will be higher than it is now, Kraner said.

    Kraner would not comment on whether workers moving to the new company would be brought in at lower salaries.

    Company officials say all four of Advance’s daily papers in the region – the Star-Ledger, the Times of Trenton, the South Jersey Times and the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. – will continue publishing seven days a week.

    RetailBrookstone files for Chapter 11

    Brookstone, a staple in malls and airports nationwide, is seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as part of its $147 million sale to Spencer Spirit Holdings.

    The purveyor of personal massagers, iPad keyboards and other quirky gadgets said Thursday that its 240 stores will remain open and business will continue as usual.

    Both Brookstone and Spencer are privately held.

    Brookstone, which was punished by more pragmatic shoppers during the recession and then by growing online competition, has watched sales decline sharply. In its most recent quarter, sales declined by more than 7 percent.

    In its bankruptcy filing, Brookstone estimated that it has liabilities between $100 million and $500 million and assets in the same range.

    Spencer Spirit also has a strong presence in malls. It sells clothing, jewelry and gag gifts at its 644 Spencer’s stores and Halloween costumes at its Spirit pop-up shops

    EConomyWeekly jobless claims increase

    The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose 16,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 326,000. Despite the increase, the number remains close to pre-recession levels and points to stable hiring.

    The Labor Department said the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, inched up 250 to 319,500.

    Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The current level of applications suggests that employers are confident enough about customer demand to maintain their current staffs. Growing business confidence can also signal more hiring.

    The Labor Department will release its March employment report on Friday. Economists estimate that 191,000 jobs were added last month, according to FactSet.

    About 3.2 million people received benefits in the week ending March 15, the latest data available, about 105,367 fewer than in the previous week.

    Federal ReserveBoard member will step down

    Jeremy Stein, a member of the Federal Reserve Board, says that he plans to resign next month to return to Harvard University.

    In a letter to President Barack Obama, Stein says that he will resign effective May 28 and return to Harvard, where he had been an economics professor since 2000. Stein had been on the seven-member Fed board since 2012.

    Stein’s departure will mean one more vacancy for Obama to fill. There are three Obama nominations pending before the Senate, and he will need to select a replacement for Stein, as well as a replacement for Elizabeth Duke, who left the board last year.

    Chronicle News Services