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Briefs

Fed likely to toe line on bonds

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Thursday that the Fed’s bond holdings will likely remain at high levels for up to eight years after it starts raising short-term interest rates.

Yellen made clear that the Fed’s investment portfolio, now at a record $4.3 trillion, will decline only gradually. She said it could take five to eight years for the portfolio of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities to return to the level in 2008 before the Fed began aggressively buying bonds.

The bond purchases were intended to lower long-term borrowing rates to stimulate a weak economic recovery. The Fed has gradually lowered the pace of its monthly purchases from $85 billion to $45 billion.

Yellen was responding to a question posed at a Senate Banking Committee hearing. She testified to Congress for a second day about the Fed’s economic outlook.

Amazon adds 15 cities to its Sunday delivery

Amazon is expanding its Sunday package delivery service to 15 more cities across the country, including Indianapolis, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Dallas.

Amazon first rolled out the service as part of a new deal with the U.S. Postal Service in November to New York and Los Angeles, just ahead of the holiday rush. At the time, it said it planned to extend it to other cities this year.

The service is one of many efforts Amazon has been making to attract new customers and encourage existing customers to spend more, even though it increased its Prime two-day shipping membership program’s annual fee to $99 from $79 in March.

The Seattle online retailer does not disclose the percentage of its packages that are delivered on weekends, but said since the service launched it has delivered millions of packages on Sunday to its customers.

Jobless aid requests fall, hint at rebound

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 26,000 last week to 319,000, the latest sign that the job market is slowly improving.

The drop follows two weeks of increases that reflected mostly temporary layoffs around the Easter holiday. The holiday can cause an uptick in layoffs of bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other school workers during spring break. Those earlier increases caused the four-week average of applications, a less volatile number, to rise 4,500 to a seasonally adjusted 324,750.

With the effect of the holiday fading, applications are returning to pre-recession levels. The average fell in early April to 312,000, the fewest since October 2007. The recession officially began in December 2007.

Bank of England keeps rates, stimulus on hold

Bank of England policymakers have kept interest rates steady and declined to pump more money into Britain’s economy amid signals of recovery.

The Monetary Policy Committee kept the benchmark interest rate at a record-low 0.5 percent and voted against boosting the monetary stimulus program. The bank has pumped $600 billion into the economy through its bond-buying program over the past five years.

The decision announced Thursday was widely expected.

Britain’s economy is one of the fastest-growing among developed countries. It expanded by 0.8 percent in the first quarter compared with the previous three-month period.

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