Retailers report gains, expect trend to continue

June sales heated up for stores, in a sign that Americans likely will continue to spend during the important back-to-school shopping season.

U.S. retailers reported their strongest sales gains since January.

Revenue at stores opened at least a year - an industry measure of a retailer's health - rose 4.1 percent in June compared with the same month a year ago, according to a preliminary tally of 13 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers.

The mall trade group had expected an increase of 3 to 3.5 percent.

Microsoft reshuffles company structure

Microsoft Corp. is reshuffling its business in an attempt to promote faster innovation and a sharper focus on devices and services.

The move by the world's largest software maker comes amid lukewarm response to the latest version of its flagship Windows operating system and a steady decline in demand for PCs as people turn to tablets and other mobile gadgets.

CEO Steve Ballmer said in a memo to employees Thursday that the changes mean the company is "rallying behind a single strategy" and organizing by function. While it has been widely anticipated, it's too early to tell how well the reorganization will help Microsoft compete with more nimble rivals like Apple and Google.

Limitless voice, text, data guaranteed by Sprint

Sprint is introducing a wireless plan that guarantees new and existing subscribers unlimited voice, text and data plans, in a move to differentiate its service from rivals AT&T and Verizon.

Sprint Nextel Corp. said Thursday that the plan, called the "Sprint Unlimited Guarantee," offers unlimited data for $30 a month on smartphones and $10 per month on traditional phones. Voice and text cost $50 for the first line and less for additional phone lines.

More people filing for jobless benefits

The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits rose 16,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, although the level remains consistent with steady hiring. The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week average increased 6,000 to 351,750.

30-year mortgage rate reaches a two-year high

The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage rose this week to 4.51 percent, a two-year high. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average on the 30-year loan is up from 4.29 percent the previous week.

Home repossessions declined in June

Fewer U.S. homes entered the foreclosure process or were repossessed by banks in June, listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said. Lenders initiated the foreclosure process on 57,286 homes last month, the lowest level for any month in 7 1/2 years.

The Associated Press