The Recorder

Business news in brief

Long-term US mortgage rates remain at lowest level this year

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates were unchanged this week, leaving the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate at the lowest level this year.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 3.78 percent. While the same as the previous week, that is down sharply from this year’s peak of 4.3 percent, reached in March. It remains slightly above last year’s average of 3.65 percent.

Long-term mortgage rates typically follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. The 10-year yield ticked up this week, Freddie Mac said, suggesting mortgage rates could pick up next week.

The 15-year mortgage stayed 3.08 percent. Those loans are frequently used by homeowners refinancing their mortgages.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

The average fee for a 30-year mortgage was unchanged from last week at 0.5 point. The fee on 15-year loans also remained at 0.5 point.

Rates on adjustable five-year loans slipped to 3.13 percent from 3.15 percent last week. The fee was unchanged at 0.4 point.

Confusion hits consumer market over US ban of Kaspersky

NEW YORK (AP) — Worries rippled through the consumer market for antivirus software after the U.S. government banned federal agencies from using Kaspersky Labs software on Wednesday. Best Buy and Office Depot said they will no longer sell software made by the Russian company, although one security researcher said most consumers don’t need to be alarmed.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security cited concerns about possible ties between unnamed Kaspersky officials and the Kremlin and Russian intelligence services. The department also noted that Russian law might compel Kaspersky to assist the government in espionage.

Kaspersky has denied any unethical ties with Russia or any government. It said Wednesday that its products have been sold at Best Buy for a decade. Kaspersky software is widely used by consumers in both free and paid versions, raising the question of whether those users should follow the U.S. government’s lead.

Nicholas Weaver, a computer security researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, called the U.S. government decision “prudent;” he had argued for such a step in July . But he added by email that “for most everybody else, the software is fine.”

The biggest risk to U.S. government computers is if Moscow-based Kaspersky is subject to “government-mandated malicious update,” Weaver wrote this summer.

New plastic Jane Austen 10-pound note launched in UK

LONDON (AP) — A new plastic 10-pound note featuring Jane Austen, one of Britain’s most renowned authors, has gone into circulation.

Apart from the Queen, whose portrait is on all U.K. currency, Austen is only the third woman to feature on a modern-day British banknote, after medical innovator Florence Nightingale and social reformer Elizabeth Fry. She was chosen after a campaign for more female representation.

The new ‘tenner,’ as it’s commonly known, is the first British banknote with a tactile feature, a series of raised dots in the top left-hand corner to help blind and partially sighted users.

The note is made of polymer and is the central bank’s latest effort to make cash harder to counterfeit, following last year’s launch of a similar five-pound note that showcases Winston Churchill. A new 20-pound note featuring artist JMW Turner will follow in 2020.

Austen, whose novels include “Pride and Prejudice,” ‘’Emma,” and “Sense and Sensibility,” is considered one of the great chroniclers of English country life in the Georgian era at the turn of the 19th century. Combining wit, romance and social commentary, her books have been adapted numerous times for television and film.

As well as a portrait of Austen, the note features a quote from “Pride and Prejudice”: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!”

New security features on the tenners — which at a value of about $13 each can buy a couple pints of beer or, at a stretch, a pair of Austen novels — will make them more difficult to counterfeit, the bank said.

The transition to polymer has sparked controversy after the central bank confirmed that a small amount of tallow, or animal fat, was used in the production process. But in August, following a public consultation, the bank said it would stick to the composition of the banknotes as the only viable alternative was using palm oil, which raised questions related to environmental sustainability and value for money.

“It is wonderful to see the inspirational author Jane Austen celebrated,” said Victoria Cleland, the Bank of England’s chief cashier. “And even more poignant being launched during the 200th anniversary of her death.”