Jobless claims

fall by 34,000

•WASHINGTON - The number of newly laid off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits dropped last week by the largest amount in six months, relieving worries about a big jump in claims in the previous week.

The total number of claims filed last week fell to 324,000, a decline of 34,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That represented the biggest one-week drop since the first week in June.

The decrease was in line with expectations of economists, who believed that an unexpectedly large jump of 35,000 claims the previous week was an aberration.

The four-week moving average for jobless claims edged up slightly to 328,750, the highest level since May, while the number of Americans receiving claims rose to 2.52 million, the highest level since January.

Average rates

on mortgages dip

•WASHINGTON - Mortgage rates around the country fell this week, with rates on 30-year mortgages dipping to the second lowest level of the year, pushed down by further signs of economic weakness.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.11 percent, down from 6.14 percent last week. The only time rates have been lower this year was the week of Jan. 19 when the 30-year mortgage dipped to 6.10 percent.

It marked the fourth straight weekly decline in rates, a development that economists attributed to easing inflation pressures as the overall economy slows.

Liberty Media said to acquire DirecTV

•NEW YORK - Liberty Media Corp. will gain control over the satellite television broadcaster DirecTV Group Inc. in a deal that will settle a long-running dispute between two powerful media figures, Rupert Murdoch and John Malone, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.

Murdoch, who controls News Corp., has reached a verbal agreement with Malone to swap News Corp.'s 39 percent interest in DirecTV for Liberty's 19 percent voting stake in News Corp.

- From wire reports