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Stocks tumble...Jobless claims drop to 15-year-low...Consumers spend more

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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are falling in early Wall Street trading as investors assess the latest batch of corporate earnings. Harman International, which makes audio systems for cars, and Yelp, an online listing company, fell sharply after posting weak earnings reports.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid has fallen to the lowest level in 15 years. The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped by 34,000 to 262,000, the lowest level since April 2000. The less volatile four-week average also dipped to near a 15-year low, down 1,250 to 283,750.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A key sector of the economy could be reviving after a rough winter. The Commerce Department says consumer spending increased 0.4 percent in March, the strongest gain since a similar increase in November. Spending fell in December and January, then climbed a modest 0.2 percent in February. The rise in spending came despite the fact that income growth was flat in March, the poorest showing in more than a year.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates are up slightly this week, but remain near historic lows. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac says the national average for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage increased to 3.68 percent from 3.65 percent last week. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage ticked up to 2.94 percent from 2.92 percent. A year ago, the 30-year mortgage rate averaged 4.29 percent while the 15-year mortgage averaged 3.38 percent.

NEW YORK (AP) — Labor organizers are opening a new front in their campaign for a $15-an-hour wage for fast-food workers by aiming to mobilize an unusual ally: franchisees. The Service Employees International Union plans to announce today that it is launching a website in hopes of building a national network of fast-food franchisees who want better protections for their businesses. The effort is unusual because franchisees are small-business owners who aren't generally aligned with unions.

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