Jos. A. Bank rejects bid from rival chain again

Jos. A. Bank is playing hard to get. The clothing company rejected Men's Wearhouse $1.78 billion sweetened acquisition offer. But it said it's willing to meet with its rival over a higher bid.

Men's Wearhouse said Monday it would offer $63.50 per share for Jos. A. Bank, up from its prior bid of $57.50. It also said it could raise the bid to $65 per share, if some conditions are met. On Thursday, Jos. A. Bank said it was willing to meet with Men's Wearhouse to discuss the higher bid.

Wells Fargo to cut jobs from its mortgage unit

Wells Fargo is cutting 700 jobs from its home loan business as mortgage refinancing slows down.

Most lenders have said they saw fewer refinancings once interest rates began to rise midway through last year. Wells Fargo spokesman says the number of new mortgages is continuing to drop during the first quarter of this year, although not as fast as it dropped last year. Wells Fargo has about 52,000 workers in its mortgage business.

On Tuesday JPMorgan Chase said it will cut 6,000 jobs from its mortgage unit this year.

Freddie Mac records a $8.6 billion gain for 4Q

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac posted net income of $8.6 billion for the October through December period, its ninth straight profitable quarter. Earnings were boosted by the continued rise in home prices, which reduced the amounts the company had to set aside to cover losses on mortgages.

Freddie's fourth-quarter profit reported Thursday nearly doubled from the last three months of 2012.

Freddie said it will pay a dividend of $10.4 billion to the U.S. Treasury next month. It already had repaid its government bailout of $71.3 billion after paying its previous dividend.

Best Buy swings back to profit in 4th quarter

Best Buy returned to a profit in the fourth quarter and topped Wall Street expectations as it cut costs to offset declining sales. The specialty electronics retailer also said it gained market share during the quarter.

Best Buy has been dealing with increased competition from online stores, notably Amazon.com, and discounters like Walmart.

Sears narrows its loss as it reduces expenses

Sears Holdings Corp. reported a hefty loss in the fourth quarter on a 14 percent sales drop, as the beleaguered retailer continues to struggle to bring shoppers into its stores.

Evev so, shares rose 6 percent as the operator of Kmart and Sears narrowed its loss versus a year ago. It is also seeing rare sales growth this month.

Sears' CEO, hedge fund billionaire Eddie Lampert called it a "tough to terrible" holiday season for the company. It underscores his challenges to turn around the business.

Sears is shifting away from its focus to running a member-focused business that gives loyal shoppers incentives to buy. It's has also cutting costs, reducing inventory and selling assets

Average 30-year rate for mortgages climbs

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages rose for a third straight week as new data showed a surprisingly strong pace of new home sales last month.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average for the 30-year loan increased to 4.37 percent from 4.33 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage rose to 3.39 percent from 3.35 percent.

Applications for jobless benefits rise to 348K

The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits rose 14,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 348,000, though the broader trend in applications remained stable.

But the four-week average was unchanged at 338,250, the Labor Department said Thursday. Applications are a rough proxy for layoffs. The average is not far above pre-recession levels, a sign companies are laying off few workers.

Nearly 3.5 million people received unemployment aid in the week ending Feb. 8, the latest data available. That's about 25,000 fewer than the previous week. Wire reports