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Feb. 6, 2013 at 2:35 PM
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Markets falter

NEW YORK, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- U.S. markets eased back Wednesday with investors finding a comfort zone after a four-week winning streak.

Stocks have moved up and down through the week and eased back Wednesday despite an upbeat corporate report from entertainment giant Walt Disney.

With no major reports scheduled for Wednesday release, the Dow Jones industrial average gave up 26.88 points or 0.19 percent to 13,952.42. The Nasdaq composite index lost 10.88 points or 0.34 percent to 3,160.70. The Standard & Poor's 500 shed 3.20 points or 0.21 percent to 1,508.09.

The 10-year treasury note rose 11/32 to yield 1.965 percent.

Against the dollar, the euro fell to $1.3514 from Tuesday's $1.3582. The dollar fell to 93.39 yen from 93.65 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index soared, adding 416.83 points, 3.77 percent, to 11,463.75.

In London, the FTSE 100 index rose 0.2 percent, 12.58 points, to 6,295.34.

Postal Service dropping Saturdays for mail

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- The U.S. Postal Service, which lost $16 billion last year, announced Wednesday it will end Saturday mail delivery beginning Aug. 5.

Package deliveries will continue on a six-days per week schedule and post office branches currently open on Saturdays will remain open Saturdays. In addition, delivery to PO Boxes will continue on Saturdays, the Post Office said.

The original cost-saving plan was to drop both mail and package deliveries on Saturday, but the plan was altered due to "strong growth in package delivery (14 percent volume increase since 2010) and projections of continued strong package growth," the Post Office said in a statement.

As it is, dropping mail deliveries on Saturday is expected to save $2 billion per year in operating costs.

The Post Office said it would accomplish the new schedule through attrition and personnel re-assignments. The agency said the public largely understands the need for the postal service to cut costs.

Market research done by a variety of organizations -- survey companies and news outlets -- have found that nearly 70 percent of the public indicates they support the cut back to a five-day delivery schedule, the Post Office said.

"The American public understands the financial challenges of the Postal Service and supports these steps as a responsible and reasonable approach to improving our financial situation," said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, who is also the chief executive officer of the service that receives no taxpayer dollars.

The Postal Service has already implemented a cost-saving consolidation plan. Since 2006, the agency has cut $15 billion out of its annual operating costs, shrinking its workforce by 193,000 and merging 200 mail processing locations.

Donahoe said the rise in e-commerce was a major factor in saving six-day package deliveries.

"We can play an increasingly vital role as a delivery provider of choice, and as a driver of growth opportunities for America's businesses," he said.

Ontario takes action against payday lender

TORONTO, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- The Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services said it is taking steps to revoke the license of Cash Store Financial Services for charging high fees for loans.

The company is one of Canada's largest payday lenders, operating more than 200 outlets in Ontario alone, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Wednesday.

The brand names for the business are Intsaloans and The Cash Store.

The ministry said the business is guilty of "several violations" of the Payday Loans Act of 2008, which limits how much payday lenders can charge for loans.

In a statement, the company, which offers a variety of banking services and products, said it had stopped making payday loans in Ontario, so revoking its license to do so in the province would not change its operations. The company, however, requested a hearing on the issue, CBC reported.

Mortgage activity increases

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- U.S. mortgage activity rose 3.4 percent in the week that ended Friday, with long-term interest rates rising, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday.

The association said its refinancing activity index also rose, climbing 4 percent compared to the previous week.

Although a weekly survey does not show long-term trends, rising mortgage activity in a week of rising interest rates indicates a stronger housing market, with demand increasing despite higher costs.

Interest rates for 30-year, fixed-rate conforming mortgages rose from 3.67 percent to 3.73 percent during the week. Points for 30-year conforming loans fell from 0.39 to 0.38.

The average interest rate for 30-year contracts on jumbo loans -- larger than $417,500 -- rose from 3.95 percent to 3.96 percent. Points for 30-year jumbo loans fell from 0.39 to 0.38.

Interest rates for 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose from 2.95 percent to 3 percent, with points falling from 0.38 to 0.33.

The average rate for 30-year loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration rose from 3.48 percent to 3.53 percent, with points rising from 0.33 to 0.38. The average rate for short-term, adjustable-rate mortgages rose from 2.6 percent to 2.72 percent in the week, with points falling from 0.33 to 0.3, the MBA said.

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