US stock indexes edge higher in early trading; oil rises

U.S. stock indexes edged higher in early trading Thursday as investors weighed the latest batch of company earnings, deal news and economic data. Financial stocks led the gainers. Energy companies also rose, getting a boost from rising crude oil prices. Real estate companies and other high-dividend paying stocks fell as bond yields headed higher. KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 61 points, or 0.3 percent, to 20,720 as of 10:15 a.m. Eastern Time.

Average US 30-year mortgage rate slips to 4.14 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week for a second straight week, slipping further from their highest levels of the year reached two weeks ago. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on 30-year fixed-rate home loans declined to 4.14 percent from 4.23 percent last week. The benchmark rate stood at 3.71 percent a year ago and averaged 3.65 percent in 2016, the lowest level in records dating to 1971.

Chilean president chides protectionism, isolationism

EVORA, Portugal (AP) -- Chile's president criticized isolationist foreign policies and protectionism in trade Thursday, saying during a state visit to Portugal that multilateralism is "crucial" to address global challenges. Michelle Bachelet said during a news conference that "we must have coordinated and cooperative responses to make the voices of the many heard.

Acclaimed and off-beat magazine The Believer has new owner

NEW YORK (AP) -- A highly praised and proudly off-beat literary magazine, where contributors have ranged from Nick Hornby and Anne Carson to Leslie Jamison and Daniel Handler, is changing ownership. The Believer, a San Francisco-based publication and five-time finalist for the National Magazine Award, has been purchased by the Black Mountain Institute at The University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The Latest: Freedom Caucus member defends against Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Latest on efforts to repeal and replace President Barack Obama's health care law (all times local): 10:31 a.m. A House Freedom Caucus member is defending the group's opposition to the failed GOP health care bill. That's after President Donald Trump lashed out at the Republican conservative group Thursday morning. Jim Jordan of Ohio says, "I respect the president, but our focus is on the legislation.

Something completely different at McDonald's: Fresh beef

NEW YORK (AP) -- Coming soon to McDonald's: Fresh beef. The fast food giant said Thursday that it will swap frozen beef patties for fresh ones in its Quarter Pounder burgers by sometime next year at most of its U.S. locations. Employees will cook up the never-frozen beef on a grill when ordered. That has been the biggest selling point at rival Wendy's.

The Latest: 'Bathroom bill' compromise passes early hurdle

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The Latest on a compromise proposal to overturn North Carolina's "bathroom bill" (all times local): 10:15 a.m. A compromise to end North Carolina's "bathroom bill" has crossed an early hurdle when it was approved by the state Senate rules committee. After the committee's approval, it will face a full vote Thursday by the Senate. Then the House will vote on it.

Back to burgers: Carl's Jr. ditches bikini-clad ads

Carl's Jr. and Hardee's are ditching the bikinis and getting back to the burgers. The chains are famous for advertisements featuring models and celebrities like Paris Hilton, Kate Upton and Emily Ratajkowski munching on burgers while scantily clad. A new commercial for the chains shows the imagined Carl Hardee Sr. taking back control of the operation from immature son Carl Hardee Jr. Carl Sr.

US economy grew at 2.1 percent rate in Q4

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy grew at a slightly faster rate in the fourth quarter than earlier estimates, as consumers powered economic momentum heading into 2017. The gross domestic product, the economy's total output of goods and services, expanded at an annual rate of 2.1 percent in the October-December period, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. That is an improvement from the previous estimate of 1.9 percent.

Applications for US unemployment aid fell to 258K last week

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, evidence that the U.S. job market remains healthy. THE NUMBERS: Weekly applications for unemployment aid dropped 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 258,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose to 254,250. The number of people receiving benefits rose 65,000 to 2.05 million. Yet that figure is down 5.7 percent from a year ago.

World's oldest spacewoman sets spacewalking record

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- The world's oldest and most experienced spacewoman, Peggy Whitson, broke another record Thursday as she floated out of the International Space Station to set up a new parking spot. It was the eighth spacewalk of her career, the most ever performed by a woman. Whitson and her spacewalking partner, station commander Shane Kimbrough, ventured out to complete prep work on a docking port.

Myrtle Beach wants repairs to storm damaged theater

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) -- Myrtle Beach has told the owners of the Hurricane Matthew-damaged Palace Theatre they need to make repairs. Local media report city officials said after an inspection earlier this year that the theater was "unfit for human occupancy." The owners closed for the rest of the 2016 season after Hurricane Matthew hit in October. A significant part of the building facing U.S. 17 Bypass was ripped off.

Malaysia says Kim Jong Nam's body released to North Korea

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysia said Thursday it has agreed to release the body of Kim Jong Nam to North Korea in exchange for the return of nine Malaysians held in the North's capital. Relations between Malaysia and North Korea have been badly frayed by the murder of the North Korean leader's half brother at Kuala Lumpur's airport. Both countries withdrew their ambassadors and North Korea blocked nine Malaysians from leaving the country.

H&M sales disappoint as more customers shop online

HELSINKI (AP) -- Swedish low-cost fashion brand Hennes & Mauritz AB said Thursday its first quarter sales disappointed, causing a plunge in the company's share price, as customers increasingly shop online. Net sales during the December-February period grew 7 percent to about 47 billion kronor. Net profit dipped to 2.46 billion kronor ($278 million) from 2.54 billion kronor a year earlier, partly because of higher mark-downs.

History points to protracted and tough Brexit negotiations

LONDON (AP) -- It took Britain more than a decade of trying to join the European club. It's now got just two to get out and strike a new relationship. If anyone thinks that will be easy for Britain, a look back to its entry half a century ago will show how difficult and protracted talks with the EU can be.

Future of Asian luxury cars, electric vehicles at auto show

GOYANG, South Korea (AP) -- South Korea's largest auto show provides a look at the future of Asian premium cars and electric vehicles, as well as efforts by Asian auto and tech companies to catch up in the field of autonomous driving. The biennial Seoul Motor Show opens Friday in Goyang, north of Seoul, for a 10-day run. There are 243 vehicles on display.

Amid Brexit, Lloyd's of London sets up office in Brussels

LONDON (AP) -- Lloyd's of London is setting up a subsidiary in Brussels so that it can continue to write insurance in Europe once Britain leaves the European Union. Lloyd's, which is an insurance market, says the move is necessary because EU rules prevent it from selling insurance in the single market if it isn't registered and regulated inside the bloc.

Voters in Meadows' district watch his health care stance

MORGANTON, N.C. (AP) -- The voters in western North Carolina who sent U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows to office expected him to remain a Republican outsider. So they aren't surprised he helped lead an effort that scuttled his party's attempt to reform the nation's health care laws. But his supporters are also carefully watching to make sure he works as hard to find solutions as he has at fighting establishment Republicans and Democrats.