- - Thursday, June 9, 2011

MORTGAGES

3 lenders faulted over mortgage-aid efforts

The Obama administration is blaming the three largest U.S. mortgage lenders for the failures of its foreclosure-prevention program. It says they’ve done little to help people at risk of losing their homes.

Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have failed to help enough people permanently lower their mortgage payments so they can stay in their homes, the Treasury Department said Thursday.

Based on those lenders’ lackluster success for the first three months of 2011, the government is withholding financial incentives that amounted to up to $1,000 per permanent loan modification. Treasury said the three lenders incorrectly determined that many people were ineligible for the program.

The lenders are disputing the data. They say the findings are based on old reports, not audits from the first quarter of the year as Treasury claimed. One of them, Wells Fargo, is formally appealing the government’s decision to cut off its incentives.

The three lenders have already received about $24 million from the government as of last month.

OIL

Price rises over concerns about future supplies

NEW YORK | Oil climbed above $101 per barrel Thursday as investors focused on how the world would meet energy demand in coming months.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for July delivery rose $1.19 to settle at $101.93 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

World oil demand is expected to outpace supplies later this year by the widest margin since 2007. While OPEC has decided not to officially increase oil production, Saudi Arabia and a few other oil-producing nations are expected to boost exports anyway. Meanwhile, U.S. gasoline pump prices fell 1.4 cents Thursday to $3.734 per gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. A gallon of regular unleaded is 21.7 cents cheaper than it was a month ago, but it’s still $1.021 higher than the same time last year.

BANKRUPTCY

Borders could close up to 51 stores

NEW YORK | Borders Group Inc. says it may have to close dozens of its best-performing stores due to a requirement of its bankruptcy financing if their landlords don’t agree to extend their lease-negotiation period.

Borders, which filed for bankruptcy court protection in February, has extension agreements for 365 stores. But it said in a court filing Thursday that it is still negotiating lease extensions for 51, many of which are among its top-selling stores.

A Borders spokeswoman says the company, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., wants to keep most of the 51 stores in question open and is working both with its lenders to waive the store-closing requirement and with landlords to get extensions.

The company says it is in talks with several potential buyers for its stores or its business as a whole.

GREECE

New austerity measures approved

ATHENS | Greek ministers on Thursday approved a new round of austerity measures and a $73 billion privatization drive that are essential for the debt-ridden country to continue receiving funds from its international bailout.

Two senior Cabinet officials who were at the meeting said the plans were to be submitted to Parliament later Thursday. They said a vote was expected before the end of the month.

“We have sought and we have found the fairest possible solution” in the new austerity cuts, Prime Minister George Papandreou said, according to a third Cabinet official who was reading from a text of the premier’s remarks.

The new measures — budget cuts and a sell-off of state holdings in companies and real estate — are a precondition for Greece to receive the next part of its $161 billion rescue package granted a year ago.

LAWSUIT

Court: Microsoft must pay in patent case

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Microsoft Corp. must pay a $290 million judgment awarded to a small Toronto software company for infringing on one of its patents inside its popular Microsoft Word program.

The high court unanimously refused to throw out the judgment against the world’s largest software maker.

Toronto-based i4i sued Microsoft in 2007, saying it owned the technology behind a tool used in Microsoft Word. The technology in question gave Word 2003 and Word 2007 users an improved way to edit XML, which is computer code that tells the program how to interpret and display a document’s contents.

The lower courts say Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft willfully infringed on the patent, and ordered the world’s largest software maker to pay i4i $290 million and stop selling versions of Word containing the infringing technology.

Microsoft wanted the multimillion dollar judgment against it erased because it claims a judge used the wrong standard in instructing the jury that came up with the award.

TECHNOLOGY

Company lowers PC sales forecast

NEW YORK | Research firm International Data Corp. expects sales of personal computers to grow 4.2 percent this year, down from a previous forecast of 7.1 percent.

The latest projection comes after IDC’s tally showed PC sales dropped by 1.1 percent in the first quarter compared to last year.

The company says the slow economic recovery, competition from smartphones and tablets and the fact that most households in the developed world already have PCs are holding back sales.

Small laptops known as “netbooks” fueled growth in PC sales in the last few years, but IDC notes that their popularity has waned as regular laptops have grown more competitive, and tablets like the iPad have emerged.

IDC still expects PC sales to grow 10 percent to 11 percent per year in 2012 to 2015.

From wire dispatches and staff reports