AP Business NewsBrief at 10:35 a.m. EDT

Apple is the world's most valuable company. The Dow Jones industrial average is probably the world's best-known stock index. So don't they deserve each other? Consider this: If Apple had been added to the Dow in June 2009, the last time there were serious rumors that it would happen, the average would be about 2,500 points higher than it is today and well above its all-time high.

U.S. stocks rose on Thursday after the government said weekly jobless claims edged down. The lower jobless number suggests that employers may accelerate hiring this month.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits ticked down last week after dropping sharply the previous week, evidence hiring could pick up this month. Weekly applications dropped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000 in the week ending May 5, the Labor Department said Thursday. The previous week's figure was revised up slightly.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. rates for 30-year and 15-year fixed mortgages fell to fresh record lows this week. Cheap mortgage rates have made home-buying and refinancing more affordable than ever for those who can qualify. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan ticked down to 3.83 percent. That's the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s. And it's below the previous record rate of 3.84 percent reached last week.

NEW YORK (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says that many businesses and consumers are finding it easier to borrow as banks shore up their balance sheets. But he says many creditworthy borrowers are finding it difficult to get mortgage loans. He says small businesses that have used their homes as collateral for loans also face "challenging" conditions.

NEW YORK (AP) — Beauty products maker Coty Inc. is raising its buyout offer for direct-seller Avon Products Inc. by about 6.5 percent to almost $10.7 billion, with help from billionaire investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. Avon, whose brands include Skin-So-Soft, Anew and mark, said Thursday that Coty told it in a letter that it was raising its offer to $24.75 per share from $23.25 per share.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit rose in March at the fastest rate in 10 months. A rise in consumer goods lifted imports to a record level, outpacing a solid gain in U.S. exports. The Commerce Department said Thursday that the trade gap widened to $51.8 billion in March, up from $45.4 billion in February. Imports rose 5.2 percent to a record $238.6 billion, reflecting more foreign oil, autos, cell phones and clothes.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — U.S. consumers have had their fill of expensive, contract-based phone plans. Figures from T-Mobile USA on Thursday, added to earlier reports from other companies, indicate that the U.S. wireless industry lost subscribers from contract-based plans for the first time in the first quarter. Contract-based plans are the most lucrative ones for phone companies. The industry default over the past several decades, they account for the vast majority of revenue at the big phone companies.

DETROIT (AP) — Ford Motor Co. has added 32,400 Windstar minivans to two safety recalls involving undercarriage parts that can rust and break. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on its website Thursday that Ford will recall 23,000 Windstars from Virginia to fix parts near the front wheels that can break and cause drivers to lose steering control.

BERLIN (AP) — Germany says it expects its tax income over the next few years to be slightly higher than previously predicted due to a healthy job market and rising personal incomes. The Finance Ministry said Thursday that tax experts predicted a total revenues of €596.5 billion ($773.5 billion) this year for Germany's federal, state and municipal governments. That's about €4.5 billion more than what they predicted last November.

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