Roundup: Chevron expanding near Louisiana border? / US mortgage rates down / Jobless claims decline

    Project planning: The Texas city of Orange, near the Louisiana border, is on the short list of places where Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. is considering building a massive $5 billion to $6 billion petrochemical expansion, The Houston Chronicle reports. For months, The Woodlands’ company’s owners, Phillips 66 and Chevron, have said they are considering adding more capacity in the region without saying where or how big of a project it could be. Read the full story.

    Rate drop: U.S. long-term mortgage rates dipped this week to the lowest average in more than a year, providing a possible boost to the start of the spring home-buying season. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage declined to 4.35% from 4.37% last week. The key 30-year home borrowing rate averaged 4.40% a year ago. The average rate this week for 15-year, fixed-rate loans declined to 3.78% from 3.81%. Read the full story.

    Steady: Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, a sign that layoffs declined and hiring is likely still strong. The Labor Department said today that weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 216,000, a very low level by historical standards. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose to 235,750. Applications are a proxy for layoffs, since people cannot claim benefits unless they lose a job through no fault of their own. Businesses are hiring at healthy levels and posted the most open jobs in nearly two decades in December. Read the full story.

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