Dollars & Sense

Mortgage rates fall

Rates on 30-year mortgages dipped slightly this week, the fifth decline in the past six weeks. Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, reported Thursday that 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 5.67 percent this week, down from 5.68 percent last week. The 30-year mortgage rate,

which ended last year at 6.17 percent, has been below 6 percent for five weeks, a stretch that has not been seen since 2005.

Weak retail month

The nation's retailers delivered more evidence of a stumbling economy Thursday, as merchants reported their weakest January performance in nearly four decades, extending a malaise that has deepened since the holiday shopping season. The sales figures made it clear that consumers wrestling with high gas and food prices, a slumping housing market, an escalating credit crisis and a weakening job market retrenched further, buying mostly necessities even when redeeming their holiday gift cards.

Hiring rules backed

A federal judge Thursday upheld a Arizona law that prohibits businesses from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and yanks the business licenses of those that do. U.S. District Judge Neil Wake's 37-page ruling was a defeat for employers who argued that it was an unconstitutional attempt by a state to regulate immigration. The ruling was a victory for advocates for tougher immigration enforcement who reject the long-standing notion that immigration enforcement is solely a federal responsibility. The judge concluded that the Arizona law doesn't conflict with federal immigration law, which he said specifically lets states regulate business licensing.

Spanish Facebook

Facebook Inc. unveiled a Spanish-language version of its online social network Thursday, hoping to expand its audience and catch up to rival It marks the first time Facebook has been available in a language other than English since founder Mark Zuckerberg started the Web site at Harvard University four years ago. Facebook plans to add French and German versions before April, according to Matt Cohler, the Palo Alto-based company's vice president of strategy and operations.

Coming Saturday

A group of farmers east of Turlock has had enough of thefts and other crimes. They want the offenders to know they're being watched.