People attend a job fair in Detroit, Michigan in this file photo taken March 1, 2014. (Joshua Lott/Reuters)
U.S. growth rate ahead of estimate

The U.S. economy grew at a 2.6 percent annual rate in the October-December quarter, slightly more than previously estimated, as consumer spending rose at the fastest pace in three years.

The fourth-quarter growth rate was a bit stronger than the 2.4 percent estimate made last month, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The revision reflects stronger consumer spending, which rose at an annual rate of 3.3 percent — its best quarterly pace since 2010.

Even with the upward revision, growth in the overall economy slowed from a 4.1 percent pace in the July-September quarter. Analysts think growth has slowed even more in the current January-March period to around a 2 percent annual rate. A harsh winter has disrupted factory production and kept people away from shopping malls.

The report Thursday on overall economic growth as measured by the gross domestic product was the government’s third and final look at the fourth quarter GDP. For all of 2013, the economy grew at a lackluster 1.9 percent, after growth of 2.8 percent in 2012.

— Associated Press

Lehman creditors set to receive $18 billion

Lehman Brothers Holdings’ creditors are set to receive about $17.9 billion next week in the fifth such distribution since the company filed the biggest U.S. bankruptcy, at the peak of the financial crisis.

The payout, scheduled for Thursday, will include about $11.7 billion for third-party claims and $1.1 billion for recently allowed claims that would have been paid by earlier distributions, lawyers for the defunct investment bank said Thursday in a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. A sixth payout is expected around Sept. 30, Lehman said.

Lehman’s estate has paid more than $56 billion to third-party creditors — a figure that is expected to reach at least $80.6 billion before the case is resolved, court records show. That estimate, made public in July, is an increase from the $65 billion recovery projected in the company’s liquidation plan, approved in December 2011.

— Bloomberg News


Microsoft unveiled Office for the iPad, a software suite that includes such programs as Word, Excel and PowerPoint and works on rival Apple’s hugely popular tablet computer. The app will allow reading and presenting of documents for free, but a subscription to Office365 is needed to enable writing and editing. A subscription for up to five computers and five smartphones costs $100 a year, but a personal version for one computer and one tablet costs $70 a year. The subscription includes 20 gigabytes of space on Microsoft’s cloud storage service, OneDrive.

Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen will testify at a Senate hearing April 9 about his company’s plans to buy Time Warner Cable, a Comcast spokeswoman said Thursday. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold the first congressional hearing on the proposed $45.2 billion merger between Comcast, the No. 1 U.S. cable operator, and its biggest rival, No. 2 cable services provider Time Warner Cable. Cohen is Comcast’s top lobbyist and helped orchestrate the cable company’s landmark acquisition of NBC Universal in 2011.

Duke Energy shareholders called on the company’s board to launch an independent investigation into issues surrounding a massive coal ash spill that soiled 70 miles of a North Carolina river with toxic sludge. A letter sent to Duke’s board of directors by a coalition of more than 20 large institutional investors says their confidence has been shaken by the Feb. 2 spill into the Dan River. Federal prosecutors have issued at least 23 subpoenas as part of a grand jury investigation into the spill and into whether Duke has received preferential treatment from state officials.

The average rate for the 30-year mortgage increased to 4.40 percent, from 4.32 percent last week, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said. The average for the 15-year mortgage rose to 3.42 percent from 3.32 percent.

The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes fell for the eighth consecutive month in February. The National Association of Realtors said its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index dropped 0.8 percent, to 93.9. The index has fallen 10.5 percent over the past 12 months.

— From news services

Coming Today

8:30 a.m.: Personal income and spending for February.

Earnings: BlackBerry.