- - Monday, June 6, 2011

WALL STREET

Economic concerns sink stocks 4th day in row

NEW YORK — Stocks were lower for a fourth straight day with banks and energy companies leading the decline. Worries about a slowing economy also continued to weigh on the broader market Monday.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 61.30 points, or 0.5 percent, to 12,089.96. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 13.99 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,286.17. It was the first time the S&P index closed below 1,300 since March 23. The Nasdaq composite fell 30.22, or 1.1 percent, to 2,702.56.

Losses came across the stock market. All 10 industry groups in the S&P index fell. Energy and financial companies each lost 2 percent.

The biggest U.S. banks each declined 2 percent or more, following a speech by a Federal Reserve board member Friday that indicated banks may be required to set aside more cash to cover potential losses. If the proposal were to take effect, banks would be left with less money to lend, which could hurt their earnings. Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. each lost more than 4 percent, and JP Morgan Chase dropped 2.5 percent.

Airlines stocks dropped after an industry group cut its profit estimates for this year by half. The group blamed disasters in Japan, unrest in the Middle East and higher fuel prices. Delta Air Lines and AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines, each lost more than 3 percent.

SUBPRIME LOANS

Goldman loses big on mortgage-unit sale

NEW YORK — At least one of Goldman Sachs’ bets on the subprime mortgage business turned out to be a bust.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said Monday it had agreed to sell its subprime mortgage servicing business Litton Loan Servicing to Ocwen Financial Corp. for $264 million. That’s much lower than the $428 million Goldman paid for the company in 2007. Goldman also assumed $916 million in debt when it bought Litton. On Monday, Goldman wouldn’t say if it still held the debt.

Goldman made substantial profits in 2007 in trades against mortgage securities. That year, it also decided it was a good time to buy Litton, which collects payments from subprime mortgage accounts. However, Litton didn’t turn out to be lucrative for Goldman and attracted unwanted attention from regulators.

Goldman said it doesn’t expect the sale to have an impact on its earnings. The company already took a write-down in the first quarter that was mostly related to Litton.

GREECE

Referendum proposed over austerity plans

ATHENS — Greece’s prime minister says he will consider holding a referendum on austerity measures essential for the country to continue drawing on funds from an international bailout.

“I am prepared, for the great changes that we are putting forward, to use even the institution of a referendum, for the broadest possible consent or opinion,” George Papandreou told his ministers during a marathon informal Cabinet meeting Monday that ran for more than seven hours.

Mr. Papandreou has been trying to quell dissent within his own governing Socialists as well as widespread anger among Greeks furious that a year’s worth of the measures have failed to produce the expected results. Frustration increased as it became apparent that the government has to impose yet more spending cuts and tax hikes.

INVESTING

Warren Buffett lunch bids already top $2 million

NEW YORK — Double-dip recession or not, people will still pay any price to have lunch with Warren Buffett.

The annual charity auction for lunch with the legendary 80-year-old investor began on Sunday night, and by midday on Monday, bids already topped $2 million. The six bids placed thus far have come from two anonymous bidders.

Last year’s winner paid $2.63 million for the right to dine with Mr. Buffett at the Manhattan steakhouse Smith & Wollensky. The price nearly tripled on the last day, as nine qualified bidders made 77 bids.

Proceeds of the auction benefit the San Francisco charity GLIDE, which runs programs including meals and health care for the poor and homeless.

Mr. Buffett, chief executive officer of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway and often called “the Oracle of Omaha,” was introduced to GLIDE by his now-deceased first wife.

The auction runs through 10:30 p.m. Friday. Bidders can qualify and bid through the website www.LunchWithWarrenBuffett.com.

From wire dispatches and staff reports