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TARP

Administration OKs bailout pay packages

The four companies that are still receiving the largest amounts of government bailout aid won't be able to raise the amount of cash they pay out to their top executives this year, the administration's pay czar has ruled.

The decisions, released late Friday, cover 2011 compensation for the top 25 executives at General Motors Co., Chrysler LLC, American International Group Inc. and Ally Financial Inc., the former financing arm of GM. The rulings clear the way for millions of dollars in salary and bonuses to be paid out by companies that are still repaying billions of dollars in aid they received during the financial crisis from the government's $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Although the companies can't give cash raises, they can boost the value of deferred stock awards to their executives. The Treasury Department defended that decision, saying it is in line with pay guidelines that it used to make compensation decisions in 2009 and 2010.

AUTOS

Sales up with economy, though buyers downsize

DETROIT | Americans bought smaller cars and sport utility vehicles in March, as higher gas prices made fuel efficiency a top priority and rising employment meant more first-time vehicle buyers.

The trends lifted U.S. sales of new vehicles by 17 percent from a year earlier to 1.25 million, a healthy rate that shows the auto industry's slow and steady recovery remains on track. The monthly sales pace, adjusted for seasonal differences and projected out for the year, came in at 13.1 million. Of major automakers, only Toyota reported a decline (6 percent) but that was expected since Toyota's sales in March 2010 were boosted by big incentives.

NEW YORK

Nasdaq joins in bid for NYSE

NEW YORK | Instead of fighting the NYSE, Nasdaq wants to own it.

Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. and another U.S.-based market, the IntercontinentalExchange Inc., submitted a joint $11.3 billion bid Friday for NYSE Euronext, the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange.

The offer, which was expected, raises the prospect of a bidding war for the NYSE with Deutsche Boerse. NYSE agreed to a $10 billion deal with the German exchange operator in February.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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