BRIEFCASE

WASHINGTON — The European debt crisis is pushing the continent into recession and dragging down the global economy, according to a forecast released Thursday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Growth in the world’s seven major industrialized economies is expected to slow to 0.3 percent in the third quarter of this year, and 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter, the group said.

Deep problems in Europe are driving that slowdown, with the eurozone’s three largest economies — Germany, France and Italy — forecast to contract a combined 1 percent in the third quarter and 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter.

The report came as the European Central Bank said Thursday that it had agreed to launch a new round of bond buying to stabilize the eurozone’s economy.

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve’s record-low interest rates have shrunk income for savers but cut costs for borrowers. Chairman Ben Bernanke is among the beneficiaries.

Bernanke’s latest financial disclosure form, released Thursday, shows that he refinanced his Washington home in 2011. He took out a 30-year mortgage with a fixed 4.25 percent rate, replacing one taken out in 2009 that carried a 5.375 percent rate.

Both mortgages were valued at between $500,000 and $1 million. The government requires top officials to estimate ranges for their financial assets rather than an exact figure.

SEATTLE — With Boeing and its white-collar engineering union just weeks away from the deadline for a new contract, the labor union’s executive director said the two sides are “in open conflict.”

“These are the most offensive and disrespectful negotiations I’ve ever been part of,” said Ray Goforth of the Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, which represents more than 23,000 employees in Washington state’s Puget Sound area. “It appears they don’t have any intention to reach a deal.”

From Boeing’s side, commercial airplanes’ head of engineering Mike Delaney said he’s “taken aback” by the union’s attitude and “a sea change in the relationship.”

The surprisingly bitter showdown is shaping up to be a test of union power.

NEW YORK — A federal judge has approved a U.S. government settlement with three major publishers accused of conspiring with Apple to fix the prices of electronic books.

The ruling released Thursday requires the publishers, Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Shuster, to abandon a pricing system that they conceived in 2010 when Apple released the iPad and began selling digital books in its iTunes store.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote approved the deal nearly five months after the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging that Apple worked with the largest digital book publishers to rig a system designed to counteract Amazon.com’s pricing practices.

Apple is fighting the lawsuit’s allegations.

WASHINGTON — Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages changed little this week and remained slightly above record lows reached this year.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the rate on the 30-year loan slipped to 3.55 percent, down from 3.59 percent last week. Six weeks ago the rate fell to 3.49 percent, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, was unchanged at 2.86 percent.

Wire reports