- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2008

Regional

Sprint Nextel Corp., the third-biggest U.S. wireless carrier, reported compensation for last year of about $40 million for former Chief Executive Officer Gary Forsee. Mr. Forsee’s pay was valued at $21.3 million for 2006, Sprint said.

Falls Church defense giant General Dynamics Corp.’s new Littoral Combat Ships, designed to operate close to shore, will cost an estimated 9.3 percent more to build this fiscal year, according to Navy figures. The cost for the year ending Sept. 30 will rise $41 million to $481 million for the first ship, a defense official said. That follows a 72 percent jump last year that boosted the cost from $256 million.

Constellation Energy Group Inc. of Baltimore, the biggest U.S. power marketer, agreed to $187 million in credits for customers of its Baltimore utility, ending a legal dispute with the state of Maryland. The agreement, announced by Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, and leaders of the Democrat-controlled General Assembly at a news conference in Annapolis, settles disputes stemming from a 2005 rate increase.

McCormick & Co. of Sparks, Md., the world’s biggest maker of spices, increased its prediction for sales growth for the full year after boosting prices. McCormick expects revenue to increase 5 percent to 7 percent. McCormick shares rose 4.8 percent, the biggest increase in more than seven months. For the quarter ended Feb. 29, net income rose 16 percent to $51.4 million (39 cents per diluted share).

ManTech International said it won a contract worth up to $83 million from the Naval Air Systems Command for engineering and technical support at the Naval Air Warfare Center, Aircraft Division Warfare Analysis Department. The contract represents an expansion of ManTech’s existing work at the facility.

National

The economy nearly sputtered out at the end of the year and is probably faring even worse now as housing, credit and financial crises continue. The Commerce Department reported that gross domestic product increased at a feeble 0.6 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter. The reading was unchanged from an estimate a month ago.

California air regulators slashed the number of battery-powered and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that must be sold in the state, a setback for environmentalists and health advocates. Instead, the air board said the six largest automakers must sell nearly 60,000 hybrid vehicles while they develop the more advanced technology that will allow mass production of pure zero-emission vehicles.

Washington Mutual, the largest U.S. savings and loan, may lose $4.2 billion this year because of mounting losses on home loans, quadruple the level expected by industry analysts, according to CreditSights Inc. Washington Mutual may have to raise at least $3 billion in additional capital to retain a cushion above the minimum required by regulators.

Rates on 30-year mortgages edged down slightly this week, staying below 6 percent, although rates on other types of mortgages rose. Freddie Mac reported that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 5.85 percent this week.

Big Wall Street investment companies are taking advantage of the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented offer to secure emergency loans, the central bank reported. Those firms averaged $32.9 billion in daily borrowing over the past week from the new lending facility, compared with $13.4 billion the previous week.

The Federal Reserve said it plans to take the unusual step of holding public hearings on Bank of America Corp.’s proposed acquisition of troubled lender Countrywide Financial.The Fed said the hearings, to be held in Los Angeles and Chicago, would consider whether the $4 billion deal will benefit the public.

Bear Stearns Chairman James Cayne sold his shares in the firm prior to a shareholder vote on the company’s pending takeover by JPMorgan Chase. Mr. Cayne sold 5.6 million shares at $10.84 a piece.

The Food and Drug Administration said it is investigating a suspected link between Merck’s best-selling Singulair and suicide. The FDA said it is reviewing a few reports involving mood changes, suicidal behavior and suicide in patients who have taken the popular allergy and asthma drug.

American Express agreed to buy General Electric’s corporate charge-card unit for $1.1 billion in cash to expand lending for business customers.

International

A lawmaker from Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s party is pushing a measure that would let private and foreign companies contract with the state oil monopoly to extract reserves from the Gulf of Mexico. Federal lawmaker Alonso Manuel Lizaola said Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, lacks the equipment and expertise to develop the deep-water oil fields.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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