- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2008

Regional

Freddie Mac, the McLean mortgage financer, said it has sufficient reserves and won’t cave in to requests by the Federal Reserve and Treasury to raise more capital at the expense of shareholders. “This company will bow to no one,” Chief Executive Richard Syron told analysts in New York. Mr. Syron also said he is urging changes in federal rules that enabled too many low- and moderate-income Americans to buy houses they can’t afford.

Shares of XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio rose more than 4 percent after their top executives said they expect U.S. regulators to approve their merger. XM shares gained 45 cents, or 4.1 percent, to $11.54. Sirius shares advanced 13 cents, or 4.7 percent, to $2.88.

Sprint Nextel of Reston, the wireless carrier formed by the merger of Sprint and Nextel Communications in 2005, couldn’t easily be split up again, Chief Network Officer Kathy Walker said. Separating operations would take longer than the integration of Nextel, Ms. Walker said.

Legg Mason’s Brian Posner plans to step down as head of ClearBridge Advisors, the fund unit acquired from Citigroup Inc. two years ago that has been hurt by subpar investment returns and investor defections. Mr. Posner, 46, will leave March 31 to pursue “entrepreneurial activities” in financial services, the Baltimore company said.

Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger said his company isn’t interested in buying AOL, which many expect to be for sale soon. AOL is Time Warner’s Sterling, Va., Internet unit.

National

Gasoline and oil prices extended their record-setting streaks, with gas at the pump reaching a new high of nearly $3.25 and crude surpassing $110 in intraday trading for the first time. The national average price of a gallon of regular gas rose 2 cents overnight to $3.246 a gallon. Light, sweet crude for April delivery rose $1.17 to settle at a record $109.92 a barrel in New York.

Skepticism about the latest Federal Reserve plan to restore calm to jittery global credit markets dropped the dollar to new lows, with the euro pushing past $1.55 for the first time.

U.S. lawmakers investigating whether Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin mismanaged the agency asked for all e-mail and other records in 12 areas of inquiry. Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat, and Rep. Joe L. Barton, Texas Republican, want to probe issues such as the FCC’s policy on market dominance by cable companies.

Wachovia’s chief risk officer said the U.S. housing outlook “appears to be worsening” and sentiment among business owners is “much more cautious.” Slowing economic conditions may create higher loan losses from auto, commercial real estate and business borrowers, said Donald Truslow.

Berkshire Hathaway Assurance Corp.’s application for a license to insure bonds in California is being fast-tracked to fill a void left by guarantors such as MBIA, which are coping with losses tied to mortgage securities.

Ambac Financial’s AAA bond insurer credit ratings were confirmed by Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s after the company sold $1.5 billion in stock and equity units to cushion against losses. Ambac sold 171.1 million common shares in a public offering, as well as 14 million shares in a private placement with two financial institutions.

The U.S. economy is in a prolonged contraction that will not dissipate until next year, according to a survey of chief financial officers. More than half of the executives surveyed said the world’s biggest economy is already in a recession and eight out of 10 said one is likely by the end of this year, according to the Duke University/CFO Magazine Business Outlook index.

General Electric Co. Chief Executive Jeff Immelt said that revenue and earnings per share should rise by at least 10 percent to $195 billion this year for the industrial, financial and entertainment conglomerate. Revenue last year rose 14 percent from 2006. Mr. Immelt said strong growth in global infrastructure will “more than offset” weakness in the United States.

Congress approved plans for the Government Printing Office to open a second secure production facility to print blank passports. The facility will be located at the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Miss., and will create 50 government jobs. The new location was approved to help deal with growing demand for passports.

The mechanics union at US Airways reached a contract agreement with the airline that includes pensions and 10 percent raises in the first year. “After two bankruptcies at US Airways and more than two years of negotiations after the merger, employees are finally seeing something positive,” a union spokesman said.

Cities, towns and governments — and taxpayers who live in them — have been “unfairly penalized” with high-risk ratings on their municipal bonds, forcing them to spend too much on bond insurance, House lawmakers said. “The public sector is paying the price,” Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, said at a hearing of his House Financial Services Committee.

Apple Inc., striving to lure buyers away from the BlackBerry e-mail device, said more than 100,000 software kits have been downloaded since last week by outside developers interested in writing programs for the IPhone. Apple set up a preview of an online store to promote programs for the IPhone.

International

Japan is investigating a possible defect in Apple Inc.’s IPod after one of the popular digital music players reportedly shot out sparks while recharging, a government official said. No one was injured, the official said. Other details weren’t available.

Investigators searched Societe Generale offices, confiscating records and taking another trader into custody as they tried to determine whether the scandal that cost the venerable French bank billions of dollars was caused by more than one person.

International Monetary Fund First Deputy Managing Director John Lipsky, in a deviation from previous initiatives, urged countries to adopt fiscal measures to address the global financial crisis because lowering interest rates alone may not be effective.

The U.S. dollar is undervalued and a “good buy,” said Hamad Saud al-Sayari, governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority. Saudi Arabia has no plans to start selling oil in euros and any such decision would be made by the oil ministry, Mr. al-Sayari said.

Liechtenstein’s police said they had issued an international arrest warrant for a former bank employee suspected of selling client information to German secret services and sparking a giant tax fraud probe.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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