- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2008

Regional

U Sallie Mae said General Counsel Robert Lavet resigned last week from the biggest U.S. student-loan source. “Rob voluntarily resigned from the company, and the parting was amicable,” spokesman Tom Joyce said. Mr. Lavet joined Reston-based Sallie Mae in 1992.

U U.S. senators said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should play a bigger role in helping struggling homeowners, and key Democrats suggested that restraints on the companies might be eased in return. Senate banking committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, said the two companies need to do more to help homeowners with high-priced loans refinance.

U Freddie Mac’s losses from mortgage defaults will grow while remaining a fraction of the charge-offs at mortgage lenders, Chief Executive Officer Richard Syron said. Higher capital requirements being considered by Congress would inhibit efforts to reduce homeownership costs and ease the housing slump, Mr. Syron said in prepared testimony before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

U Genworth Financial Inc., the Richmond insurer divested by General Electric Co., said fourth-quarter profit fell 52 percent as record home foreclosures led to losses in its U.S. mortgage insurance business. Net income fell to $178 million (40 cents a share) from $373 million (81 cents) a year earlier. Excluding investment losses, earnings beat estimates.

U ComScore Inc., the Reston-based tracker of the most-visited Web sites, said fourth-quarter profit rose to $12.7 million (42 cents) from $2.6 million a year earlier, before ComScore was publicly traded. Sales rose to $25.3 million, beating the average $25.2 million.

U Watson Wyatt Worldwide Inc., the Arlington human resources consultant, said net income for its second quarter ended Dec. 31 rose 41 percent to $36.8 million (82 cents a share) from $26 million (58 cents) a year ago. Shares of Watson Wyatt rose $5.66, or 12 percent, to $51.25, their biggest gain since October 2000.

U Fairfax defense contractor Argon ST Inc. said net income for its first quarter ended Dec. 30 fell 17 percent to $4.3 million (19 cents per share) from $5.2 million (23 cents) a year ago.

U Chesapeake, Va., based discount variety chain Dollar Tree Stores Inc. reported total fourth-quarter sales increased 5 percent to $1.32 billion from $1.24 billion a year ago, while comparable-store sales decreased 0.8 percent.

U Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda won a $194 million contract from the Army to build long-range, surface-to-surface missiles of the type used in the invasion of Iraq. The guided missiles are fired from mobile launchers and are designed to destroy targets up to 186 miles away.

National

U Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. said the U.S. economy is not in a recession but conceded that the decline in the housing market will have a long-term effect. “The economy is slowing,” Mr. Paulson said told the House Ways and Means Committee. Falling home values “will certainly have a long-term impact as we go through this correction.”

U Rates on 30-year mortgages dipped slightly this week, the fifth decline in the past six weeks. Freddie Mac reported that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 5.67 percent this week, down from 5.68 percent last week.

U Google Inc.’s mobile-phone operating system will go on display next week in Spain as the company seeks to challenge Microsoft Corp. and Nokia Oyj in wireless software. The program, dubbed “Android,” will be shown on prototype devices at the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the Internet search leader said.

U The White House urged lawmakers to be “very, very careful” about taking steps to curb investment in the U.S. economy by government-run sovereign wealth funds amid worries about cash-flush China. Spokesman Tony Fratto said the United States should be mindful of “the signals we send to foreign investors who are looking to place their money in this country.”

International

U A U.S. Treasury Department official cautioned China against using profits derived from its newly launched, cash-flush investment fund to delay reform of the yuan currency. “It is important that China move more rapidly to increase [yuan] flexibility,” Robert Dohner said at a hearing of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

U Societe Generale SA trader Jerome Kerviel, blamed two weeks ago for a record trading loss, made $2.1 billion for the bank from unauthorized trading last year, before losing about $7 billion early this year, two executives said. The 31-year-old trader’s gain was equivalent to 27 percent of the bank’s net profit in 2006.

U Deutsche Bank AG said that its fourth-quarter net profit slipped 48 percent from last year, but reported no new subprime-related write-downs. Deutsche Bank appears to have escaped with relatively little damage from the mortgage mess compared with rivals.

U Struggling bank Northern Rock will be reclassified as a public company and its debt brought on to government books, Britain’s Office for National Statistics said. The statistics office said the lender is a “public financial corporation,” but stressed it was not being nationalized. The new classification means that the government that is in charge of Northern Rock’s “general corporate policy.”

U Libya and Indonesia signed a deal for the North African state to supply the world’s most populous Muslim nation with crude oil for the next 20 years, the National Oil Corp said. Under the agreement, Tripoli will supply Jakarta with a minimum of 50,000 barrels per day, a figure rising to 200,000 barrels per day from 2013, the NOC said.

U A gravely ill former executive of the dismantled oil giant Yukos will be transferred from jail to a civilian clinic for treatment of AIDS-related cancer and tuberculosis, Russian prison officials said. The move reverses previous refusals to allow Vasily Aleksanian to be treated at a hospital.

U Russia’s state-controlled natural-gas company OAO Gazprom said it would cut off supplies of Russian gas to Ukraine unless its neighbor makes arrangements by Monday to pay off more than a $1 billion in debt. Russian gas accounts for about one-quarter of the amount going to Ukraine. But Russia also said such a move would not affect other European customers.

U The European Union’s top antitrust enforcer said that Europe should look into sharing evidence of companies’ illegal price-fixing with regulators in other countries, such as the United States. The European Union’s competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, said regulators investigating cartels and major business combinations have “frequent and intense” contact with major trading partners but are not allowed to share evidence.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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