September 28, 2007 on 4:32 pm | In News of the Day | 0 Comments

SKY News Summary 9-28-07

New home sales for August were the lowest they have been in seven years. The Commerce Department reposted that from July to August, new homes built declined 8.3% to 795,000, which is a 21% fall from August of last year. USAToday

Freddie Mac agreed to pay the Securities and Exchange Commission $50 million to settle charges that it misstated earnings by some $5 billion for 2000-2002. Former President, David Glenn, ex-CFO, Vaughn Clarke, and former SVPs, Robert Dean and Nazir Dossani were fined a total of $515,000 in civil fines and told to make restitution of $275,548. This is in addition to the then-record breaking $125 million civil fine in 2003 paid to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. HC,0,2834227.story

Two major life insurance industry organizations, LIMRA and LOMA are merging into one large, not-for-profit trade group, called LL Global Inc.. It will be headquartered in Windsor where LIMRA is now. HC,0,3537964.story

The Federal Reserve reported that the average daily borrowing of banks from the Fed, for the week ended on Wednesday, was $88 million compared with $2.2 billion for the week ended September 19. This drop may indicate that the credit crunch is waning. USAToday

Four makers of hip and knee replacement implants have agreed to pay a total of $310 million settling a kickback probe. Orthopedic surgeons were paid exorbitant sums as consultants if they agreed to use only these companies’ products. The companies and their penalties are: Biomet, $26.9 million; DePuy, $84.7 million; Smith & Nephew, $28.9 million; and Zimmer, $169.5 million. USAToday

Wheat prices reached an all-time high, again, on Thursday. Wheat for December delivery closed at $9.33 a bushel, more than double the price from a year ago. Tight supply, due to a drought in Australia and poor crops in other nations, plus a shift in the U.S. away from wheat and into higher-yielding corn, have created the tight market. USAToday

The results of the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress were released on Tuesday and showed striking gains in American students’ math and reading skills. The Christian Science Monitor reports that, “Fourth-graders are reading at higher levels than in all previous assessments, and most racial/ethnic groups are showing improvement.” The average math score for fourth-graders has increased 27 points over the past 17 years. (A 10-point gain is roughly equivalent to gaining a grade level.) CS Monitor

British Airways announced that its biggest order for aircraft in nine years will be split between Airbus and Boeing. The company booked a dozen Airbus A380 superjumbos and 24 Boeing 787 Dreamliners in a deal worth $8.2 billion. The BA Chief Executive, Willie Walsh, preferred the A380 over Boeings 747-8 for environmental and economic reasons. HC,0,4917602.story

The House voted Thursday to expand the federal flood-insurance program to include wind damage. One opponent of the bill said, “she objected to its expanding taxpayer liability and further straining the program’s administrative capabilities.” HC,0,1632821.story

Sources: Hartford Courant, Christian Science Monitor, USAToday

September 28, 2007 on 4:25 pm | In News of the Day | 0 Comments

SKY News Summary 9-27-07

Durable goods orders fell 4.9% in August according to a Commerce Department report. USA Today

GM/UAW Factoids
Here are some facts that shed light on the GM/UAW deal worked out yesterday:
• U.S. auto workers employed by Toyota, Honda, and Nissan make what GM workers make – $25 per hour. With benefits figured in, workers of foreign companies make $45-$55, compared with $65 -$75 for GM workers.
• By 1967, when health care costs were low and domestic auto makers dominated the world market, GM workers received full health-care coverage for active workers as well as retirees. In 1970, they also received prescription-drug benefits, and could retire after 30 years, increasing the cost of retiree health care.
• UAW membership was 1.4 million in 1970 and is 520,000 today.
• GM currently pays health benefits to 340,000 UAW retirees.
• Toyota pays health benefits to 250 retirees.
• Up to two-thirds of GM’s active UAW workers, of which there are 74,000, could retire over the next five years.

Bank Fees
U.S. bank fees are at an all-time high. ATM surcharges average $1.78, bounced checks average $28.32, and monthly service fees on interest checking accounts average $11.72 according to

Skin Cancer Drug
Synta Pharmaceuticals, of Lexington, Mass., announced that tests of an experimental drug (it is so new it has not been named) seem to show that the drug slows the spread of skin cancer. The drug is one of several that kill tumor cells by overwhelming them with oxygen. USAToday

Breast Cancer Drug
Roche Holding, AG said its drug, Herceptin may reduce the number of mastectomies if used in combination with chemotherapy before women undergo surgery. The drug works on an aggressive, but rare form of breast cancer, known as inflammatory HER2-positive breast cancer. WSJ

Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s Questioned
Members of the Senate Banking Committee are questioning Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s regarding their involvement in the mortgage market debacle. Some Senators claim the rating agencies did not give a true picture of the risks of mortgage-backed securities because the agencies also provide advice to the investment banks that issue those securities. USAToday

Number in Nursing Homes Decline
The average nursing home patient runs out of money within six months and must go on Medicaid, says Sandy Markwood, CEO of National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. The good news for Medicaid is that the number of Americans aged 75 and older living in nursing homes is declining. (Today, 7.4% of Americans over 75, or 1.8 million people, live in nursing homes, compared with 10.2% in 1990). USAToday

Microsoft News
Microsoft is updating its search engine to compete with Google. The updates will occur by the end of this month. Also, the company’s new game Halo 3 generated about $170 million is first day sales, which is a record in the gaming industry. Microsoft’s entertainment and devices division expects to post its first-ever full-year profit this fiscal year, which ends June 30th. Sales of Xbox 360 and Xbox Live are expected to grow as well. WSJ & HC{CB0D024C-800E-47BD-9AA0-9D72847C7730},0,7212578.story

Flowers Rethinks Merger with Sallie Mae
Last April, J. Christopher Flowers of J.C. Flowers & Co. in a merger agreement, agreed to pay $60 per share for SLM Corp (Sallie Mae). Yesterday, SLM’s shares were $45.01. Mr. Flowers contends that he can walk out of the deal because of two events that come under the “Material Adverse Effect” clause of the agreement: First, Legislation governing student-lending practices will have adverse affects than allowed in the agreement; and second, the economic environment makes the deal unacceptable. Sallie Mae’s Chairman, Albert Lord contends that the new legislation will have a minimal impact on the company. WSJ

Ford announced it will offer, as a dealer-installed option, JD radio on all its 2008-model year Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles. HD radio provides better reception and more radio station choices (1,500 choices).

Tax breaks on Second Homes Change
Under current law, a married couple can exclude from taxes up to $500,000 in capital gains on the sale of a principal residence, and a second home can be considered a primary residence if the taxpayer has lived in it two of the previous five years. Yesterday, the House’s Ways and Means Committee approved a bill that makes the size of the tax break for a second home tied to the portion of time, out of all the years a house is owned that it serves as a principal residence. The longer you lived there, the larger the tax break. This change is expected to generate $2 billion in revenue over the next 10 years, and would pay for the Committee’s bill eliminating taxes owed on forgiven debt in the case of foreclosure. WSJ

Oil Company Share Buybacks
Chevron announced a $15 billion share-buyback plan, the equivalent of 7% of the company’s market capitalization. Exxon Mobil has also been buying back stock. Exxon spent $15.1 billion on buybacks in the first half of this year, and distributed $32.6 billion to shareholders through dividends and share purchases. WSJ

Sources: USAToday, Hartford Courant, Wall Street Journal

September 26, 2007 on 10:11 am | In News of the Day | 0 Comments

SKY News Summary 9-26-07

Moody’s and S&P will be questioned by members of Congress today on their role in the sub-prime mortgage crisis. At issue is whether the agencies were thorough in their due diligence, and whether issuers of bonds should be paying the agencies to rate their bonds instead of investors. The rating agencies are expected to propose changes which will establish and empower a trustee of the assets backing securities to confirm the veracity of the data provided by borrowers whose assets are being used as collateral. They are also requesting that more information be provided on the performance of the loans underlying asset backed securities. (WSJ)

Real Capital Analytics reported that cap rates for office and apartment real estate fell in August. Average cap rates have fallen from roughly 10% in 2001 to 6% at present driving real estate prices higher. The cap rate is the cash flow a property investment yields as a percentage of its purchase price. (WSJ)

The U.S. dollar fell to a 15 year low after the National Association of Realtors reported that the stock of unsold existing single-family homes had risen to an 18 year high. The report prompted speculation that the Fed would have to lower rates further to stabilize the housing market and forestall a recession. Lower rates are said to lessen the attractiveness of a currency relative to higher yielding alternative currencies. (FT)

September 26, 2007 on 10:08 am | In News of the Day | 0 Comments

SKY News Summary 9-25-07

Halo 3 a Success
Microsoft’s Halo 3 is expected to exceed $200 million in sales today and promote sales of the company’s Xbox 360 console through the Christmas season. The game has received very high ratings from critics. WSJ

Jobs in CT at All-Time High
The number of jobs in Connecticut is at an all-time high of 1,701,600. Gov. Rell, pleased with the number, said, “Despite job losses at the national level, our state’s economy continues to grow and add new jobs.” The largest growth in jobs came in the government sector. HC–statsep25,0,1495692.story

Nuclear Waste Site Worries
The newest U.S. Geological Survey shows evidence of an earthquake fault beneath what is to be a huge nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Yucca Mountain is 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas and is expected to open in 2017. More than 50,000 tons of nuclear waste is being held at reactors around the country, waiting for the opening of the repository. USAToday

New Nuclear Plant Applications
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission received its first application in 31 years for a new nuclear reactor from NRG Energy Inc., a New Jersey company that has never built a reactor. The agency expects up to 29 applications over the next 15 months as companies rush to qualify for billions of dollars in federal incentives and loan guarantees offered in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The NRG application may reignite a debate in Congress about the wisdom of building new plants given the industry doesn’t have a federal repository for the radioactive waste from the existing 104 operating reactors.

Results of Carbon Discloser Project Unveiled
On Monday, Wal-Mart announced it will begin measuring energy use in seven product categories in conjunction with the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) spear-headed by Bill Clinton. CDP is a non-profit agency, which, according to its Web site, “is an independent not-for-profit organization aiming to create a lasting relationship between shareholders and corporations regarding the implications for shareholder value and commercial operations presented by climate change. Its goal is to facilitate a dialogue, supported by quality information, from which a rational response to climate change will emerge.” Among the 500 companies ranked by the Financial Times as the world’s largest by market capitalization, 75% responded to this year’s energy use survey, up from 47% when the survey started four years ago. The CDP is supported by 315 institutional investors including Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and has programs with Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Hewlett-Packard, and General Motors. HC,0,3681600.story

Xerox Announces Low-Cost Color Printing
Xerox announced that its two new color printers will significantly reduce the cost of color printing by two-thirds. Color printing will cost the same as black-and-white printing. The printers will cost $2,499 and $3,999 or about $900 more than the competition’s equivalent copiers, but the excess cost can be recouped within five months once ink cost-savings are factored in. HC,0,562358.story

Facebook Subpoenaed
New York state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has subpoenaed Facebook claiming that undercover investigators, posing as either children or their irate parents, were solicited by adult sexual predators and that pornography was easily accessible. Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal and North Carolina’s Roy Cooper are leading their own investigations. USAToday

Facebook Investor?
According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft could invest $300 to $500 million in Facebook in exchange for a 5% stake in the company. USAToday

Heating Costs May hit Record High
The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association will release its official forecast for winter heating bills in two weeks. But unofficially, the average U.S. household heating with oil, will pay $1,834 in heating costs this winter, up 28% from last winter, and double the cost of four winters ago. Eight percent of U.S. homes use heating oil, mainly in the Northeast. Higher oil prices are also seen at the gas pumps with prices up 43 cents from a year ago. USAToday

Higher Energy and Food Costs Reflected in Consumer Spending
Target and Lowes, two retailers with historically strong earnings said yesterday they are facing soft September sales. Target cut its forecast from an increase of 4% to 6% to an increase of 1.5% to 2.5%. Lowe’s also reported softer sales.

Acupuncture Improves Back Pain
German researchers reported in yesterday’s Archives of Internal Medicine, that “fake acupuncture works nearly as well as the real thing for lower-back pain, and either kind performs much better” than medication and other Western treatments. USAToday

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, The Hartford Courant, USAToday

September 25, 2007 on 1:28 pm | In News of the Day | 0 Comments

SKY News Summary 9-24-07

Nvidia Takes on Intel with Graphics Chips
Low-end computers will be seeing better graphics thanks to a duel between Nvidia and Intel. Both companies make chips that generate graphics on computer screens, necessary for most games and even for Microsoft’s Vista. Nvidia had offered its chips to work with microprocessors from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Now, it enters a much larger market, offering chips which work with Intel microprocessors, targeting PCs that sell for around $500. WSJ

Big Oil Companies Face a Dilemma
In its “ financial commentary” in today’s Wall Street Journal, Rob Cox and Cyrus Sanati assert that the big oil companies will see a reduction in revenues, unless they either acquire an oil-services firm, or merge with another major firm. Their revenues are being threatened by a rise in National Oil Companies. In the past, a major oil company was valuable because of its capital, its ability to locate new reserves and its project-management skills. Recent events in Algeria (Algeria kicked Spain’s Repsol out of a project), Kazakhstan (hassling Italy’s Eni), and Venezuela (in court with ExxonMobil) indicate that major oil companies need to reinvent themselves in order to be of value again. Either they can find efficiencies of scale by merging, or they can focus on what seems to be a growing field, oil-servicing. Companies, like Schlumberger, a Franco-American oil-service firm, simply extracts the oil, and currently trades at 21 times 2008 profit estimates, compared to 14 times for Exxon. WSJ

Chinese Gluten Tainted with Uncertainty
What ever happened after the huge pet food recall last year? It turns out the culprit was wheat gluten that came from China and was laced with an industrial chemical, melamine, making the gluten look more protein rich than it actually was. This same gluten is used by companies like Sara Lee in their baked goods. Are we safer now? The FDA refused 27 of 135 shipments of Chinese wheat gluten that came to the USA between April 24 and July 26. At least 21 of these were refused because importers didn’t submit the proper lab test results confirming the shipment was melamine free. Apparently, private testing labs are overwhelmed with work and can’t get the testing done in time. Meanwhile, whereas pre-scare, 10% of US wheat gluten came from China, today domestic wheat gluten is on the rise. Domestic sales have risen 52% in the fiscal year ended July1. Prices have risen 30%. As for dog and cat food, most pet food companies have taken the filler out of their products. USA

The New Jersey Devils are expected to be leaving the Meadowlands for an arena in Newark for the 2007-2008 season. Continental has decided to give up its naming right for the arena. That gives you the unique opportunity to buy the naming rights of what used to be the Continental Airlines Arena at the Meadowlands. USA Today

Fiber-optic Cable Demand Rises
Richard Mack, of KMI Research, is predicting a double-digit growth rate in fiber-optic cable demand in the next few years despite the hemorrhage of cable from the dot-com bubble days. Watching a video on the Internet uses much more bandwidth that surfing websites does. With a proliferation of YouTube users, consumers are demanding more bandwidth at higher speeds. Fiber-optic demand should rise 10% in the US this year, 15% in China, and 20% in India. USAToday

Foreign Companies Flee NYSE
This year, 34 foreign companies have left the New York Stock Exchange, and nine more have announced plans to do so. Another 20 have said they plan to leave Nasdaq, or have done so already. This follows a move by the SEC in March, making it easier to “deregister” if average daily trading volume is less than 5% of a company’s worldwide average trading volume over the past twelve months. Also, it is easier for U.S. investors to trade on foreign exchanges using E-Trade, for example. At the same time, the NYSE listing fee for foreign companies is up to $38,000 a year. And fees resulting from adherence to the Sarbanes-Oxley rules, converting books to meet U.S. accounting practices, add much to the cost. USAToday

Climate Summit
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Gore and others are at a climate summit today at the U.N.. They are preparing for a conference in Indonesia, in December, which will open talks for an emissions-reduction agreement to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. USAToday

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Hartford Courant, and USA Today

September 21, 2007 on 3:03 pm | In News of the Day | 0 Comments

SKY News Summary 9-21-07

Unemployment Claims Dropped
Initial claims for unemployment fell 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 311,000 in the week ended September 15th. This may show that employment numbers may not be as bad as once thought. WSJ

Troubles for Chevron
Gani Kasymov, a popular senator in Kazakhstan, is calling for Chevron to close the Tengiz field, a large oil field in the Caspian Sea. Chevron, the largest private oil producer in Kazakhstan is 50% owner in Tengiz. Tengiz’s oil contains hydrogen sulfide gas which the company must extract and store in pellets in tanks the size of two football fields. Chevron says it has not been able to transport the pellets elsewhere because all the rail cars available in the land-locked country are being used to transport oil. Mr. Kasymov claims the company is damaging the environment. WSJ

The Silicon Situation
It is common knowledge that silicon, used in solar panels and computer chips, is in short supply. What is less commonly known is how some smaller companies have avoided expensive long-term supply contracts with fixed prices and upfront payments by using some creative strategies, and their earnings reflect that savings. Q-Cells, the second-largest panel maker, refused to sign long-term contracts at high fixed prices and found other ways of wooing silicon suppliers. For instance, the firm sends engineers to the suppliers to help them improve efficiency and quality control, increasing the suppliers’ profit. Q-Cells production grew 52% in 2006. Suntech Power, based in China, is willing to buy expensive silicon on the spot market, since it spends less on labor and manufacturing cost. First Solar, based in Phoenix, has developed “thin-film” solar panel which uses only 1% of the silicon used in other panels. WSJ

Credit History Freeze Available
According to Consumers Union, 27,000 Americans become victims of identity theft each day. TransUnion, one of the Big Three credit bureaus, has said it will allow consumers to freeze credit history so that a would-be thief cannot open new credit card accounts. For $10, one can freeze one’s history and for another $10 temporarily lift the freeze. The company is also instituting a service called TrueCredit 3-Bureau Monitoring that gives consumers access to their credit reports and allows online credit-freeze. USA

The $5 Bill Gets a Facelift
The new five dollar bill was unveiled online yesterday (see The new bill has a large, purple “5” on the back which will be helpful to the visually impaired. It also has a second watermark and security thread which glows blue under ultraviolet light. While this bill was not a favorite of counterfeiters, the old bill could be bleached and reprinted as a $100 note. There are no plans to change the $1 bill since all seven million vending and money-changing machines would need to be replace. WSJ

Gold Rises to Record High
Yesterday, the dollar sank to a record low against the Euro and gold reached a 27 ½ year high. The dollar traded at parity against the Canadian currency for the first time since 1976. The Dow Jones, which is up 10.5% this year, dropped 48.86 points or 0.4%.WSJ

Cars are getting better mileage and some are using ethanol, which means they are using less gasoline. Less gasoline means less tax revenue for states with gas taxes. Gas prices, being as high as they are, state legislators are reluctant to increase the gas tax. Leave it to our legislators to find alternative means to tax us. In Oregon, drivers may pay a road user fee based on an embedded GPS device. Minnesota and Colorado may also institute a mileage tax. Privacy issues regarding the use of GPS are a concern. But one tester of the system felt the mileage fee was fairer than the gas tax. USA

Cirque Du Soleil’s show, Kooza, is coming to Hartford in April. Tickets should go on sale in October. HC

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Hartford Courant, and USA Today

September 21, 2007 on 7:14 am | In News of the Day | 0 Comments

SKY News Summary 9-20-07

The House passed a bill, yesterday, which gives the Food and Drug Administration new authority to ensure the safety of prescription drugs, including mandating label changes as new risks associated with the drug are identified. The Senate is expected to pass the bill as early as today. HC,0,1463867.story

The story of the New York City cabbies strike of two weeks ago, has taken an interesting turn: A group of cabbies has sued city :regulators to block the requirement of a GPS in every cab. According to a wire service report in the Courant, the cabbies’ argument is that the GPS would give away trade secrets since cabbie design their own routes that lead to the most lucrative fares. HC,0,2166292.story

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are setting the portfolio cap for both companies at $735 billion, about a 2% increase, hoping to help the strain in the mortgage market. The companies can buy about $20 billion more in subprime loans. HC,0,3009069.story

Freddie Mac also was also involved in a U.S. Bankruptcy ruling in which 4,547 loans valued at $797 million were at risk due to a dispute between Freddie Mac and American Home Mortgage, which went bankrupt August 6. Freddie Mac had the money homeowners paid to cover tax and insurance payments, but American Home held the files needed to pay those taxes make insurance payments. As a result of the ruling, Bank of America Corp will temporarily service the loans. WSJ

The Hartford Courant reports that The Connecticut Science Center, being built in Hartford and opening in 2008, is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. The Center’s green features includes a 100-foot-wall of solar panels, a hydrogen fuel cell that will generate a third of the Center’s electricity, and steel beams, 95% of which were made from recycled cars. HC

Dow Jones Newswires reported that ExxonMobil Corp. has shut down a crude oil processing plant in Beaumont, Texas and Chevron shut down a refinery in El Segundo, California. The news, coupled with a government report showing declines in oil inventories, drove oil futures to a new trading high of $82.51 a barrel. HC

Merck announced yesterday that its vaccine, Gardasil, guards against many strains of the HPV virus that causes cervical cancer. There are over 60 strains of the HPV virus. Two strains cause 70 percent of cervical cancer in North America, but the next three strains cause 11% of cervical cancer worldwide. The new study shows that Gardasil reduced incidence by nearly two-thirds for these three next common HPV strains. Gardasil is approved for sale in 85 countries and pending approval in 40 more. GlaxoSmithKline PLC is awaiting approval of its own vaccine, Cervarix. HC,0,3149468.story

More and more people are watching TV on their computers. The benefits are; few or no commercials, being able to pause, and catching up on missed episodes. The screen is as large as your monitor if you click the “full screen option”. The downside is that episodes are at least a day older than what is on TV and you have to download Media Player. Try to watch last season’s Ugly Betty. Media companies are expanding past their own Web sites in order to reach more viewers. ABC struck a deal with AOL allowing its full-length prime-time shows to be available through AOL’s portal. CBS is already available on AOL, and NBC and Fox are jointly launching Hulu to be available on AOL, MySpace, Yahoo, and MSN in a few weeks. WSJ

Consumer prices posted a rare decline in August according to the new economic report by the Labor Department. Consumer prices decreased 0.1% in August, the first drop since a 0.4% dip in October 2006. Reduced gasoline prices were cited as the reason for the decline. Core CPI, which excludes food and energy cost, rose 0.2%, up 2.1% from the prior year. New housing starts are off 42% from their January 2006 peak. Permits for new construction dropped 5.9% to 1.31 million units. WSJ


DuPont Co. will invest $500 million to increase production of Kevlar, used in military body armor, kayaks, hockey sticks, fiber optics, ropes, air crafts, etc. Production capacity should increase 25% when the expansion is complete in 2010. WSJ

China will freeze all government-controlled prices, responding to public outcry against inflation, which is at its highest rate in more than a decade. Inflation in August hit 6.5% and is largely due to higher food prices, caused by a shortage of pork and the rising cost of feed. FT

Toshihiko Fukui, Bank of Japans’ governor, held interest rates at 0.5%, despite his frustration about Japan’s slow pace of monetary tightening. “Keeping rates too low for too long could lead to distortions in asset allocation and global financial flows” he said, citing the example of the yen carry trade. FT

Russia’s natural gas giant, Gazprom, supplies about a quarter of the EU’s 27- nation bloc’s gas. Yesterday the EU initiated a proposal to block foreign energy suppliers, such as Gazprom, from buying pieces of the EU’s transmission network. The initiative illustrates the EU’s frustration about Russia’s using energy for political ends.

September 20, 2007 on 6:42 am | In News of the Day | 0 Comments

SKY News Summary 9-19-07

The Federal Reserve cut two key interest rates by a half a point yesterday. It lowered the Fed Funds rate by ½ a point to 4.75, bringing Fed Funds closer to being in line with short-term U.S. Treasuries whose yields tumbled in recent weeks. They also lowered the discount rate to 5.25 percent. The discount rate has been cut by a total of 1.0% in the last 30 days to help banks which are having troubles obtaining short-term funding in the commercial paper market. (WSJ)

GE will take a hit of $300-400 million in the third quarter related to exiting the sub-prime mortgage business. The company said that strong profit gains in other businesses and a gain from the sale of GE plastics would offset the losses. The company is expecting other charges in the quarter from the sale of Lake, their Japanese consumer lending business, and restructuring efforts in their industrial business. Third quarter charges totaling $1.9 billion are expected. The charges are timed to coincide with the $11.6 billion sale of GE plastics to a Saudi investment group which will generate a large gain. (WSJ)

Rupert Murdoch is considering making the Wall Street Journal Online a completely free service. At present, parts of the site are limited to subscriber-only access. At present, the site has 983,000 subscribers. At issue is whether a free site will attract more viewers and command higher advertising rates. (WSJ)

The U.K. central bank and Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling agreed to guarantee all bank deposits and in effect become the lender of last resort to the U.K. banking system. The move was an attempt to stem the run on Northern Rock, the largest mortgage lender in the U.K. Prior to the move, the U.K. guaranteed only a percentage of depositors’ money. (WSJ)

Source(s): Wall Street Journal

September 18, 2007 on 5:21 pm | In News of the Day | 0 Comments

SKY News Summary 9-18-07

The Fed cut the federal funds rate by a half percentage point to 4.75% today.

The Court of First Instance said the European Commission acted properly in 2004 when it found that Microsoft had abused its near-monopoly position. Microsoft’s total fees and fines could reach $2.77 billion. Unless the company wins an appeal, the money will go to the EU which will then distribute it to its member states. The EU said Microsoft had illegally bundled Windows Media Player inside Windows operating system, which hurt companies with alternative players. As Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology points out, the ruling could discourage Microsoft from adding features such as voice recognition into Windows. “The result will be higher costs and more complexity for software developers and consumers alike. Airbus should start worrying about adding new features to their planes.” The EU brought a similar case against Intel in July, accusing it of using marketing incentives to deter customers from dealing with Advanced Micro Devices Inc and against Rambus Inc. in June for withholding information from an industry group about its patents.

If you use Google as a homepage you will notice a profusion of widgets in your “Add stuff” tab. Last year, Google offered “widgets” (pullout Web modules), such as top stories from CNN, or the weather, which you could easily add to your homepage. Now, you can add anything from the New York Times Classic crossword puzzle and Dow Jones stock market news and indexes, to Dilbert, as widgets become the fastest-growing trend on the Internet. Newspapers, rethinking their traditional format, are increasingly breaking up their news “packages” to reach new readers and perhaps generate new revenues through sponsorship deals. In related news, the New York Times announced that it would, as of tomorrow, make available, free, the past 20 years of the paper’s archives and columnists. The company had charged $49.95 for a year’s subscription to this service, generating $10 million in subscription revenue. The Times expects advertising revenue will exceed the lost subscription revenue. HC and WSJ,0,5974586.story

Ridgefield and Danbury are enjoying their new-found status as a cardiovascular research center as the German pharmaceutical giant, Boehringer Ingelheim, the maker of Zantac and Flomax, opened it new 86,000-square-foot research facility and proceeds with construction of an even larger, 100,000-square-foot building. HC,0,2454924.story

Novartis has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to expand the label for its drug Reclast, to include use in preventing repeat hip fractures. The drug has been given to cancer patients with bone damage, but a new study, funded by Novartis, finds the drug useful inpatients that fractured their hips. Reclast is a bisphosphonate, a class of drug that includes, Fosamax, which is made by Merck.

British hospitals are banning neckties, long white coats, long sleeves and jewelry to curb a “superbug” staphylococcus. The Department of Health stated that, “ties are rarely laundered but worn daily and perform no beneficial function in patient care.” USA

CRH PLC, the Irish building-materials company is in talks to buy as much as $4.5 billion in assets from Cemex SA, the Mexican cement company.

New York state and New York City joined six other states in lawsuit against Merck, the maker of Vioxx. The company withdrew the drug in 2004 after a study showed an increase of heart attacks and strokes in patients using the drug.

Adobe Systems reported third quarter 2007 net income of $205.2 million, compared to $94.4 million third quarter last year, due mainly to sales of Creative Suite 3 and Acrobat. Creative Suite 3, or CS3, was released in April.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Hartford Courant, Bloomberg News

September 17, 2007 on 4:24 pm | In News of the Day | 0 Comments

SKY News Summary 9-17-07

Boeing contends that it will make scheduled delivery times, starting in May, of its much-anticipated 787 Dreamliner.  The plane’s construction has been plagued by a shortage of fasteners needed to build the fuselage.  The company has 700 orders from 48 different airlines for the carbon-fiber composite plane, which claims increased energy efficiency.  Test flights, which were to have begun in August, have been pushed back to November or December.  If the May delivery deadlines are missed, Boeing will face stiff penalty payments.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has subpoenaed internal documents of five energy companies with plans to build coal-fired plants claiming investors may get burned if Federal laws pertaining to energy creation change.  The five companies are:  AES, Dominion Resources, Dynegy, Peabody Energy Corp., and Xcel Energy.

Eight employers are backing the development of a Web-based health record network being constructed by Children’s Hospital Informatics. The employers (AT&T, Wal-Mart, Pitney Bowes, Cardinal Health, Applied Material, Intel, BP PLC, and Sanofi-Aventis) are funding this program, which they hope will reduce costs by placing the file maintenance responsibility in the hands of the patient.  The Web site for the project, called Dossia, outlines the proposed initiative: “The key feature to understand about the Dossia is that it is personal and private. You choose how much data is collected in your record and shared, with whom, and in what form. It is recommended that you share a complete record with your physician, but the decision is always in your hands. Your record will also be portable; you can continue to update it and use it even if you move to another state or change employers, health plans or doctors.”

GM’s contract with the UAW expired last Friday with a small threat of a strike. At issue is the establishment of a UAW Trust, or VEBA, to finance retiree health care.  The UAW must look tough enough in its negotiations with GM to satisfy its dwindling membership, while being docile enough to attract new members from Asian car makers in the South. GM, on the other hand, is looking to eliminate the $1,200 to $1,500 per car the burden of health liabilities now costs, and which its chief rival Toyota does not have to charge.

Britain’s fifth largest mortgage lender (as measured by volume of loans outstanding) had a difficult weekend as customers withdrew 4% of total deposits.  Northern Rock PLC began its credit crisis with the U.S. sub prime loan situation. (Unlike the U.S. which insures up to $100,000, British deposits are 100% insured up to about $4,000; then the next $65,000 is insured at 90%).  The Bank of England uncharacteristically issued the company an emergency line of credit, which as of yet, has not been tapped.

Some city governments have banned bottled water dispensers in their offices claiming that much oil is wasted in making and delivering the bottles which are seldom recycled.
Sources: Wall Street Journal, Financial Times

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