- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2008

Regional

• Shares of Reston-based student lender Sallie Mae fell to their lowest point in seven years after Arlington investment bank Friedman Billings Ramsey cut profit estimates. Sallie Mae shares lost 78 cents, or 4 percent, to $19.36 after falling as low as $19.11, the lowest since November 2000. Sallie Mae faces an “uncertain” funding environment and a “thinned bench of executive talent,” the firm said.

Freddie Mac, the second-largest provider of money for U.S. home loans, increased its debt last month by the most in 3½ years. Debt outstanding rose $30 billion in December, or 4 percent, to $774.5 billion, according to the McLean company’s Web site. Short-term borrowing drove the increase, climbing $34.8 billion to $199.4 billion.

• Bethesda defense giant Lockheed Martin agreed to pay a former employee $2.5 million, more than any other person has received in the settlement of a racial-discrimination case filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency said. Charles Daniels, 45, said he was called derogatory names and threatened by four co-workers and a supervisor between 1999 and 2001 when he worked as an aviation electrician.

National

• Post-Christmas shopping gave retailers some relief, but the 2007 holiday season is turning out to be tepid, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. The group’s weekly sales index slipped 0.2 percent for the week ended Saturday, compared with the previous week and rose 2.3 percent compared with the year-ago period. Yet ShopperTrak RCT said retail sales climbed 14 percent last week from a year earlier on last-minute discounts and redeemed gift cards.

Federal Reserve policy-makers worried at their December meeting about the potential for a vicious cycle to develop in which credit problems could worsen. That could hurt economic growth and force the Fed to act more aggressively in cutting rates, according to meeting minutes made public yesterday.

United Technologies Corp.’s Hamilton Sundstrand unit, the maker of electrical systems for commercial aircraft, said it teamed with private-equity firm US Renewables Group to sell solar technology within three to four years that uses molten salt to help produce electricity. The venture, called SolarReserve, uses the sun’s rays to heat liquid salt, whose properties allow it to store the energy.

• The federal Mineral Management Service approved oil and natural-gas development off Alaska’s northwest shore, drawing condemnation from environmental groups worried about the area’s wildlife, including polar bears.

ETrade Financial, the worst performing stock last year in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, said former Chief Executive Mitchell Caplan resigned from the board and will be paid $10.9 million in severance. ETrade said it expects to hire a new CEO within 30 to 60 days, to replace acting CEO Jarrett Lilien, who took the post in November as ETrade doubled provisions for bad loans.

Qualcomm said that a federal judge’s order to stop selling chips for cell phones that infringe on rival Broadcom’s patents will have an immediate effect on its business. U.S. District Judge James V. Selna of Santa Ana, Calif., ruled Monday that Qualcomm cannot sell chips that rely on three Broadcom patents, the latest development in a number of legal disputes between the companies.

Abbott Laboratories wants to question former ImClone Systems Inc. Chief Executive Officer Samuel Waksal from prison for information on a patent dispute. ImClone refuses to agree to Abbott’s request for a face-to-face interview, saying it should submit written questions to Waksal, Abbott said in papers filed Monday in federal court in Boston.

Overstock.com Inc. co-founder Jason Lindsey resigned as president, chief operating officer and director of the Internet-based retailer. Mr. Lindsey, whose term ended Monday, said he was “ready to take a less-active role in order to spend time on outside ventures,” the company said. He will continue managing special projects for the Salt Lake City company part time.

• The former DaimlerChrysler AG paid a record $30.3 million fine last year for violating fuel-efficiency requirements set by the federal government. The fine was assessed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration against the automaker, which was divided last year when Cerberus Capital Management acquired an 80.1-percent stake in Chrysler.

• Seven states began a standardized and mandatory process to more thoroughly license and track tens of thousands of mortgage brokers. The effort could be expanded upon by congressional Democrats, who are expected to continue pushing for tighter national standards this year. Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York and Rhode Island are participating, with others including Washington, D.C., to join by the end of next year.

American Home Mortgage Investment Corp.’s plan to shred almost 500,000 loan documents to save storage costs might hinder mortgage investors seeking to foreclose on bad loans, critics of the bankrupt firm said in court papers. Units of Bank of New York Mellon Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. and the U.S. trustee monitoring the reorganization oppose the plan to destroy files.

Boeing Co., the world’s second-largest maker of commercial planes, said orders for its 787 Dreamliner reached 802 planes after completing a contract with Vietnam Airlines Corp. and Vietnam Aircraft Leasing Co. The 12-plane order is valued at about $2 billion, Chicago-based Boeing said.

• Shares of United Airlines parent UAL Corp. fell the most in almost two years, leading a decline among U.S. airline stocks as crude oil surged to a record. Shares of UAL slid $3.67, or 10 percent, to $31.99. Fuel has become the largest cost for most airlines, surpassing labor.

International

• Activists lifted a blockade at the U.S.-Mexico border, ending a 36-hour protest against the removal of Mexico’s last tariffs on U.S. and Canadian farm goods. Mexico abolished its last protective tariffs on basic crops such as corn, beans and sugar on Tuesday, under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

• The board of Nordic stock exchange operator OMX AB unanimously recommended Borse Dubai’s $4.99 billion cash offer for the company. The OMX board said it was also taking into account the OMX share purchase by Nasdaq Stock Market Inc., formerly a rival bidder for OMX.

Venezuela, where the government is seeking to increase natural-gas consumption in power plants to boost exports of gasoline and fuel oil, said it will raise gas output from existing wells with new drilling methods. “Highly angled drilling” will increase output in the Anaco area in eastern Venezuela by 110 million cubic feet a day, Petroleos de Venezuela SA said.

Venezuela’s banking superintendent extended the deadline for citizens to use prepaid credit cards for foreign purchases after banks warned that not doing so may leave travelers stranded over the holidays. The cards, which the government said on Dec. 21 had to be shut off by Tuesday, can now be used until Jan. 11, the banking superintendent said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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