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American Airlines stumbles on path to recovery

DALLAS (AP)—Just weeks ago, American Airlines was working its way through bankruptcy court, on schedule for one of the fastest turnarounds in aviation history. Planes were full. Revenue was pouring in. Then seemingly overnight, American became the butt of jokes from Facebook to late-night TV.

A slowdown that American blamed on pilots caused massive delays and cancellations. Then rows of seats came loose on a few planes. Passengers wondered if they'd get where they were going on time—and in one piece.

Some travel experts advised booking on other airlines to avoid getting stranded on American.

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Softbank in talks to invest in Sprint

NEW YORK (AP)—Japanese cellphone company Softbank Corp. was in talks Thursday about taking a substantial ownership stake in struggling U.S. carrier Sprint Nextel Corp.

Sprint, the third-largest cellphone company in the U.S., said the deal could be big enough to involve a "change of control" of the company. It didn't provide any other details.

The news sent Sprint shares as high as $6.04, the highest level since 2008.

The Wall Street Journal, citing an unidentified person with knowledge of the talks, reported earlier that the potential deal would help Softbank expand outside of Japan. It put the value of the transaction at more than $12.8 billion.

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US jobless claims fall to 339,000 fewest in 4 1/2 years

WASHINGTON (AP)—The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid plummeted last week to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, the lowest level in more than four years. The sharp drop, if sustained, could signal a stronger job market.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications fell by 30,000 to the fewest since February 2008. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped by 11,500 to 364,000, a six-month low.

The positive figures follow a report last week that said the unemployment rate fell in September to 7.8 percent. It was the first time since January 2009 that the rate dropped below 8 percent.

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Wendy's pigtails get first touch-up since 1983

NEW YORK (AP)—Wendy's pigtails get a trim.

For the first time since 1983, the Dublin, Ohio-based fast food company is updating its logo in a move intended to signal its ongoing transformation into a higher-end hamburger chain.

Instead of the boxy, old-fashioned lettering against a red-and-yellow backdrop, the pared down new look features the chain's name in a casual red font against a clean white backdrop. An image of the smiling, cartoon girl in red pigtails floats above—though this girl looks not quite as childlike.

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IMF chief urges action in tackling euro crisis

TOKYO (AP)—The head of the International Monetary Fund on Thursday called for urgent action to tackle Europe's debt problems and an approaching fiscal crisis in the U.S., warning that the struggling world economy is already falling short of even pessimistic expectations.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde, speaking to reporters as the IMF and World Bank held annual meetings in Tokyo, praised recent steps taken by the European Central Bank and European governments, but said "more needs to happen, and faster."

Finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of Seven richest nations met for about 90 minutes on the sidelines to discuss the European debt crisis. They also discussed the impending budget impasse in the U.S., an issue that prompted some at the meeting to express concern, according to a senior Japanese Ministry of Finance official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, which is ministry policy. They released no communique.

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Carl Icahn plans to offer $3 billion to buy Oshkosh

NEW YORK (AP)—Billionaire investor Carl Icahn wants to make an unsolicited bid for truck maker Oshkosh Corp. that values the company at almost $3 billion. Icahn says he also plans to nominate his own slate of directors in a bid to control the company.

The activist investor said Thursday that he will make a tender offer worth $32.50 per share in cash, a 21 percent premium over Oshkosh's latest closing price.

Icahn had sought seats on the board unsuccessfully last year. He said management has taken a passive attitude toward the company's future and he wants it to be more active. Icahn said he already owns about a 10 percent stake in the company.

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IPO market shows signs of life with 4 big gains

NEW YORK (AP)—After a string of disappointing debuts, the IPO market showed signs of life Thursday, with shares of four newly public companies each shooting up more than 20 percent in their first day of trading.

All of the companies—Realogy, the owner of realty firms Century 21, Coldwell Banker and Corcoran Group; online stock photo provider Shutterstock; Kythera, a developer of shots to treat double chins; and Intercept Pharmaceuticals, which develops drugs for liver diseases—saw strong demand from investors. The companies raised more money in their initial public stock offerings than they had predicted, an unusual occurrence in the past few months.

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US trade deficit rose to $44.2 billion in August

WASHINGTON (AP)—The U.S. trade deficit widened in August from July because exports fell to the lowest level in six months. The wider deficit likely dragged on already weak economic growth.

The deficit grew 4.1 percent to $44.2 billion in August, the biggest gap since May, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Exports dropped 1 percent to $181.3 billion. Demand for American-made cars and farm goods declined.

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US rate on 30-year mortgage rises to 3.39 percent

WASHINGTON (AP)—Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages ticked up from record lows last week. Cheaper mortgages are fueling a modest housing recovery that could help the broader economy.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan increased to 3.39 percent from 3.36 percent. The previous week's rate was the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage edged up to 2.70 percent, from last week's record low of 2.69 percent.

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US foreclosure filings hit 5-year low in September

U.S. foreclosure filings dropped to a five-year low in September as fewer homes were on track to be seized by lenders.

It was the second-consecutive monthly decline in filings, although there remains a sharp divergence along state lines, according to a report Thursday by foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc.

On a national level, overall foreclosure filings last month—including home repossessions—fell 7 percent from August and 16 percent from September 2011. There were 180,427 foreclosure filings reported for September, the fewest since July 2007 in the midst of the housing market bust.

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Mailing a letter to cost a penny more next year

WASHINGTON (AP)—It'll cost another penny to mail a letter next year.

The cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service said Thursday that it will raise postage rates on Jan. 27, including a 1-cent increase in the cost of first-class mail to 46 cents.

It also will introduce a new global forever stamp, allowing customers to mail letters anywhere in the world for one set price of $1.10.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones industrial average finished down 18.58 points at 13,326.39. The S&P 500 inched up 0.28 point to 1,432.84. The Nasdaq fell 2.37 points to 3,049.41.

Benchmark oil gained 82 cents to close at $92.07 per barrel. Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, rose $1.50 to $114.68 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Heating oil rose 4 cents to $3.26 per gallon. Wholesale gasoline fell less than a penny to $2.956 per gallon. The government said the nation's gasoline inventories fell by a half-million barrels and are near the low end of the average range. Natural gas added 13 cents to $3.60 per 1,000 cubic feet.