Health advisers:

Vioxx successor should not

be approved

•WASHINGTON - A painkiller proposed as a successor to Vioxx should not be approved, a panel of federal health advisers overwhelmingly recommended Thursday.

The nonbinding 20-1 vote was on the prescription drug Arcoxia, made by Merck & Co. Inc.

A Food and Drug Administration drug safety expert had told the panel the drug may increase substantially the risk of stroke and heart attack and is no more effective for pain relief than other medicines in the same class.

Mortgage rates

rise for second straight week

•WASHINGTON - Mortgage rates around the country rose for a second straight week with 30-year mortgages hitting the highest level since late February.

In its weekly survey, mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.22 percent this week.

That was up from 6.17 percent last week and put the 30-year rate at the highest point since it was also 6.22 percent the week of Feb. 22.

Analysts attributed the increase to the government's release of better-than-expected job numbers for March, with the unemployment rate dipping to 4.4 percent, matching a five-year low. At the same time, 180,000 jobs were created, the strongest showing in three months.

Spending outlook

turns hazy

•NEW YORK - Spring looks bleak for the nation's retailers. After robust sales in March, there are signs that consumers are already spending less. And a trifecta of problems - rising gas prices, a rougher housing market and the specter of higher interest rates - are likely to make the retail business even tougher in the months ahead.

Although many stores reported Thursday that they had surpassed expectations last month, several warned of upcoming disappointments.

- From wire reports