Sanford sues over stimulus money

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford

Mary Ann Chastain

LinkedIn's huge public offering boosts stocks

NEW YORK -- The biggest Internet IPO since Google combined with a drop in oil prices to send the broad stock market higher Thursday.

The debut of LinkedIn is seen as a preview of other social networking sites that are expected to start trading during the next year. (For more details on the IPO, see full story on this page.)

Oil prices fell back below $100 a barrel after an international agency said there is an urgent need for refineries to produce more gasoline and bring down pump prices.

--The Dow Jones industrial average rose 45.14, or 0.4 percent, to close at 12,605.32.

--The S&P 500 gained 2.92, or 0.2 percent, to 1,343.60.

--The Nasdaq composite index rose 8.31, or 0.3 percent, to 2,823.31.

Sales of existing homes decline slightly for April

WASHINGTON -- Fewer people purchased previously occupied homes in April, a troubling sign that the weak housing market remains a drag on the economy.

Sales fell 0.8 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.05 million units, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.

Economists say the sale of 6 million homes a year represents a healthy market.

Purchases made by first-time home buyers did increase but not nearly enough to signal that a housing recovery is on the way.

First-time buyers are critical because they typically improve their properties and invest in their communities, a combination that helps home values rise.

Amazon: E-book sales surpass printed variety

NEW YORK -- Amazon.com on Thursday said that, after less than four years of selling electronic books, it now is selling more of them than printed books.

The online retailer said that since April 1, it has sold 105 e-books for every 100 printed books, including printed books for which there is no electronic edition.

The comparison excludes free e-books, which would tip the scales further if they were included.

Printed books include hardcover and paperbacks. Amazon said in July that e-book sales had outstripped hardcover sales. It now is selling three times as many e-books as it did a year ago.

Fixed mortgage rates at low point for this year

NEW YORK -- Fixed mortgage rates fell this week to the lowest point of the year, offering an incentive for homeowners to save money by refinancing their loans.

Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan fell to 4.61 percent. That's down from 4.63 percent and the lowest level since mid-December.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinance option, slipped to 3.80 percent from 3.82 percent. That marked the lowest point since late November.

Unemployment claims fall for 2nd week in a row

WASHINGTON -- The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell sharply for the second straight week, suggesting that the job market is slowly recovering.

Applications for benefits dropped 29,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 409,000, the Labor Department said.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose slightly to 439,000. It was the sixth straight increase.

The declines come after applications spiked last month to an eight-month high of 474,000.

The increase was largely because of temporary factors. Still, it lifted applications nearly 100,000 higher than February's three-year low of 375,000, a level typically consistent with sustainable job growth.

Weekly applications peaked during the recession at 659,000.