Business briefs

Exxon reports rare decline in earnings


NEW YORK — Exxon Mobil struggled just about everywhere in the first quarter.

It produced less oil and natural gas. Profits dropped at its chemical plants and U.S. refineries. And its overall net income fell 11 percent, the first decline in quarterly earnings since late 2009.

America’s largest energy company earned $9.45 billion, or $2 per share – short of Wall Street expectations and below the $10.7 billion, or $2.14 a share, it earned a year earlier.

In other news

THE NUMBER of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits remained stuck near a three-month high last week. The report disappointed economists, who had forecast a decline in unemployment applications. Even so, most analysts think employers will add about 175,000 jobs this month.

MORTGAGE BUYER Freddie Mac said Thursday that the interest rate on 30-year loans dropped to 3.88 percent this week, down from 3.9 percent. In February, the rate hit 3.87 percent, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

THE NATIONAL Association of Realtors said Thursday that its index of sales agreements increased 4.1 percent last month to a reading of 101.4. That’s the highest since April 2010, when buyers could qualify for a federal home-buying tax credit. A reading of 100 is considered healthy.