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Americans tapped their credit lines in a big way in May; Ted Turner makes a big land gift and a surprising tax move

Ted Turner to give land to nonprofit but keep paying taxes

Ted Turner talks with guests at a gala in Atlanta in 2013. File/AP 

Consumers borrowed $35B more in May

WASHINGTON — U.S. consumer borrowing surged by $35.3 billion in May as Americans, bolstered by a reopening economy and rising job levels, went back to using credit in a big way.

Borrowing on credit cards and for auto and student loans showed solid gains in May, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday. It marked the fourth straight month of strong growth in consumer borrowing and followed an April advance of $20 billion.

The May borrowing total was driven by a $26.1 billion increase in the category that includes auto and student loans, which followed a $21 billion rise in that category in April.

The category that covers credit cards saw a $9.2 billion rise in May, the strongest advance since a $10.9 billion increase in January 2020 before the economy was laid low by a global pandemic.

Consumers' use of credit cards has been falling since early 2020 as households cut back on their use of credit in the face of the pandemic-triggered recession.

Turner to donate 80,000-acre Neb. ranch

LINCOLN, Neb. — Media mogul and billionaire bison rancher Ted Turner is donating an 80,000-acre ranch he owns in western Nebraska to his own nonprofit agriculture ecosystem research institute and says he might do the same with four other ranches in Nebraska's Sand Hills.

But he'll continue to pay taxes on the land, much to the relief of local officials and Nebraska leaders, the Omaha World-Herald reported Thursday.

"I believe that local property taxes provide essential support for services on which our ranches and communities depend," Turner, 82, said in a statement. "The Institute will continue to pay its share of taxes to support the local communities."

State officials had feared Turner — Nebraska's largest landowner with nearly 500,000 acres of western Nebraska ranchland — might turn over the land to a nonprofit and remove vast tracts of land from property tax rolls.

The news release from Turner Enterprises Inc. and Turner Ranches announced the launch of the Turner Institute of Ecoagriculture, which expects to work in conjunction with South Dakota State University to conduct research and develop strategies to conserve ecosystems while raising bison and generating income off grazing lands.

Turner, founder of 24-hour news cable network CNN, announced in 2018 that he had Lewy body dementia. The disease causes Alzheimer's-like symptoms along with movement and other problems.

Jobless claims tick up from pandemic low

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week even while the economy and the job market appear to be rebounding from the coronavirus recession with sustained energy.

The July 8 report from the Labor Department showed that jobless claims increased by 2,000 from the previous week to 373,000. Weekly applications, which generally track the pace of layoffs, have fallen steadily this year from more than 900,000 at the start of the year. The four-week average of applications, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, is now 394,500 — the lowest such level since the pandemic erupted in March of last year.

The rollout of vaccinations is driving a potent economic recovery as businesses reopen, employers struggle to fill jobs and consumers emerge from months of lockdown to travel, shop and spend at restaurants, bars, retailers and entertainment venues.

US mortgage rates continue to fall

WASHINGTON — Mortgage rates continued to fall this week, tracking a decline in yields on Treasury securities as the bond market continues to signal concerns over the strength of the recovery from the pandemic recession.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average for the 30-year home loan eased to 2.90 percent from 2.98 percent. By contrast, the rate stood at 3.03 percent a year ago.

The rate for a 15-year loan, a popular option among homeowners refinancing their mortgages, fell to 2.20 percent from 2.26 percent. Freddie Mac economists expect economic growth to gradually push mortgage rates higher in the second half of the year.

The bond market has been signaling the economic recovery concerns for months, specifically that it may have peaked and is now leveling off to a steadier pace. Home loan rates tend to track moves of the yield on the 10-year Treasury note — which rises when bond prices fall. The benchmark yield has been falling steadily in recent weeks as traders shift money into bonds. It was quoted at 1.30 percent around midday Thursday, after trading as high as 1.74 percent at the end of March.

2nd recall for some GM pickup trucks

DETROIT — General Motors is recalling more than 331,000 diesel pickup trucks in the U.S. for a second time because the engine block heater cords can short circuit and cause fires.

The recall covers certain 2017-2019 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 and 3500 pickups with 6.6-liter diesel engines and optional engine block heaters.

GM says in documents posted July 8 by U.S. safety regulators that shorts can develop in the heater cord or terminals that connect the cable to the block heater. Coolant can leak from the block heater and come in contact with the cable terminals, possibly causing a fire. The heaters are used to keep the block warm in extreme cold temperatures.

GM says it has reports of 24 fires potentially caused by the problem from Dec. 3, 2019 through May 28, 2021. The company says it's not aware of any injuries. Those vehicles were fixed in a 2019 recall for the same problem.

Dealers will disable the block heaters and cords. Owners are to get notification letters starting Aug. 16. Replacement block heaters and cords will be offered through a separate customer service campaign.

Mazda says steering emblem can shatter

DETROIT — Mazda is recalling nearly 261,000 older small cars because a plastic emblem on the steering wheel can shatter if the air bags are inflated, causing injuries.

The recall covers certain Mazda 3 cars from the 2004-2007 model years.

Mazda says in documents posted July 8 by U.S. safety regulators that the emblem can shatter and send plastic fragments into the vehicles.

The company says in documents that it has 10 reports of injuries outside the U.S. Also, two lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. alleging injuries.

Dealers will replace the air bag module cover. Owners will be notified starting Aug. 28.

Tenn. wins Smart USA's HQ

NASHVILLE, Tenn.  — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Wednesday announced that Smart USA Co. is locating its U.S. headquarters in Nashville.

According to a news release, the London-based retirement technology company will create nearly 130 new jobs and invest $2.2 million over the next five years.

Smart USA is the U.S. division of Smart Pension Ltd., a retirement technology business. The company has more than 70,000 retirement plans on its platform globally, including in the U.K., Ireland, Dubai and Australia.

Associated Press

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