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Feb 21 2011

Monday Business Edition

Monday Business Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Business

1 China’s Alibaba bosses step down after fraud probe

by D’Arcy Doran, AFP

52 mins ago

SHANGHAI (AFP) – Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.com said Monday its chief executive and head of operations had resigned after a probe found fraudulent suppliers had used the site to cheat buyers.

David Wei and Elvis Lee resigned as chief executive officer and chief operating officer respectively, accepting responsibility for “systemic breakdowns” that allowed the fraud to happen, the company said in a statement.

“The investigation confirmed that Mr Wei and Mr Lee and other members of senior management were not involved in any of the activities that led to the claims by buyers against fraudulent suppliers,” the statement said.

AFP

2 Lawmakers downplay risk of US government shutdown

AFP

Sun Feb 20, 2:06 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – American lawmakers, battling over spending cuts, minimized the risk Sunday that the fierce debate between Republicans and Democrats would lead to a shutdown of the US government.

“We’re not looking for a government shutdown, but at the same time we’re also not looking at rubber stamping these really high elevated spending levels that Congress blew through the joint two years ago,” said Representative Paul Ryan, chairman of the House budget committee, told CBS News.

“We don’t want to accept these extremely high levels of spending while we negotiate how to continue funding the government.”

3 Iceland president calls referendum on new Icesave deal

by Agnes Valdimarsdottir, AFP

Sun Feb 20, 1:35 pm ET

REYKJAVIK (AFP) – Iceland’s president on Sunday called a referendum on a new deal reached with Britain and The Netherlands to repay money lost in the collapse of the Icesave bank.

“The citizens of Iceland will get to vote on these new Icesave contracts,” President Olafur Grimsson told reporters in Reykjavik.

His announcement came after Iceland’s parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly voted in favour of the new Icesave deal and voted down by a slim majority the idea of putting the issue to a referendum.

4 EADS stake decision could leave Berlin ‘in a bind’

by Estelle Peard and Aurelia End, AFP

Sun Feb 20, 12:09 am ET

FRANKFURT (AFP) – Torn between the need to save money and the desire to maintain German influence in the European aerospace group EADS, Berlin could be in a bind if automaker Daimler seeks to reduce its holding.

“We have to make a break from nationalisations, they were necessary during the crisis but only during the crisis,” Michael Fuchs, economic spokesman for the ruling conservative CDU/CSU parties, told the Berliner Zeitung daily on Friday.

Fuchs said a desire to maintain the shareholder balance in EADS between French and German interests did not justify the government taking a direct participation.

5 Gold rush means hard times in Portugal

by Thomas Cabral, AFP

Sun Feb 20, 6:39 pm ET

LISBON (AFP) – Portugal’s financial woes have triggered a gold rush of sorts, as the country’s debt-strapped population sells off family valuables to pay their monthly bills.

From capital Lisbon to the northern city of Porto, home of the famous fortified wine, appeals to trade second-hand gold jewellery for euros are mushrooming.

“We buy used gold for cash,” read posters plastered on street corners and shopping malls. The solicitations are also made in page-long newspaper advertisements and radio spots.

6 G20 deal on economic indicators after China compromise

by Francesco Fontemaggi, AFP

Sat Feb 19, 2:52 pm ET

PARIS (AFP) – The G20 countries overcame initial Chinese opposition to clinch a deal Saturday on which economic indicators to use to evaluate and tackle the economic imbalances at the heart of the global crisis.

French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde, who chaired the talks, said the accord marked the “first step” towards correcting these problems, thereby putting the global economy on track to more balanced growth and prosperity.

Lagarde told a press conference there had been a lengthy debate about the indicators, after reports that China, sensitive over its currency policy and trade balance, had held out to the last moment against a number of measures.

7 Big Greek bank plans stall as Alpha rejects NBG merger

by John Hadoulis, AFP

Fri Feb 18, 1:50 pm ET

ATHENS (AFP) – An attempted merger between Greece’s top two banks stalled Friday after Alpha Bank rejected an offer from National Bank to create the country’s best capitalised lender.

Hours after NBG unveiled a “friendly merger” proposal tabled on January 18, Alpha said the offer amounting to an “absorption” had been “unsolicited” and rejected it.

“The board of directors of Alpha Bank convened on 18 February 2011 and, following due consideration of the terms of the proposal, unanimously resolved to reject it, taking into account the uncertainties of the current environment, and the terms of the proposal itself, which were not deemed beneficial to the Alpha Bank shareholders,” Alpha said in a statement.

8 House budget cuts raise spectre of US govt shutdown

by Ken Maguire, AFP

Sun Feb 20, 6:25 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Historic spending cuts approved by the US House of Representatives face a grim future in the Senate, raising prospects of a government shutdown and ramping up the public relations blame game.

After a marathon floor debate running well past midnight, the Republican-controlled House voted Saturday to cut about $61 billion in government spending.

US President Barack Obama’s administration and leaders in the Senate, controlled by Democrats, immediately criticized the move.

9 Protest in US state over plan to bust public unions

by Mira Oberman, AFP

Sun Feb 20, 3:28 am ET

MADISON, Wisconsin (AFP) – Chanting “this is what democracy looks like,” 65,000 protestors descended on Wisconsin’s legislature in the fifth day of mass demonstrations against a Republican plan to bust public workers unions.

Demonstrators who have camped out in the capitol dome since Tuesday insisted that they will not give up the fight against what they see as a broad plan by Republicans to undermine working people and the Democratic Party they support.

At least nine other Republican governors are considering bills that would curtail or eliminate collective bargaining rights for public workers.

10 Leaders wary of eurozone competitiveness pact

by Emmanuel Angleys, AFP

Sun Feb 20, 12:35 am ET

WARSAW (AFP) – Central European states have given a cool reception to a Franco-German proposal for a eurozone competitiveness pact, pointing to the risk of a two-speed Europe, even though few are in any rush to adopt the single currency.

Leaders of the 17-member eurozone will hold a special Brussels summit on March 11 on the proposed pact aimed at reinforcing policy coordination at a time when the bloc is battling a debt crisis.

The move has raised eyebrows among the 10 EU members who are not yet a part of the euro club and have not been invited to attend the summit.

11 Nabucco pipeline still in limbo

by Luc Andre, AFP

Sun Feb 20, 12:29 am ET

VIENNA (AFP) – With construction of the EU’s ambitious Nabucco gas pipeline slated to begin in less than a year, huge question marks remain over its financing and the actual supplies of gas it is supposed to transport.

The aim of Nabucco is to bring gas from central Asia to Europe, bypassing Russia and Ukraine where repeated squabbles over prices have in the past left the 27-nation European Union without vital supplies of gas, sometimes in mid-winter.

Nevertheless, the consortium that will build and operate the major new energy corridor has yet to sign a single contract with any of a number of potential supplier countries.

12 Draghi ‘needs Berlin boost’ to get ECB top job

by Mathieu Gorse, AFP

Sun Feb 20, 12:15 am ET

MILAN (AFP) – Italian central bank governor Mario Draghi may be the favourite to head the European Central Bank after Germany’s Axel Weber withdrew from the race, but experts say he still needs to convince Berlin.

“His chances have improved but it’s not in the bag yet,” Marco Valli, an economist at Italian banking giant UniCredit, told AFP, as the Jesuit-educated economist stepped up his campaign to take the top post in Frankfurt.

A columnist for the Financial Times daily was bullish this week, saying: “The ECB needs Draghi.” And The Economist said: “The next president of the world?s second-most-important central bank should be Mario Draghi.”

13 Bank scandal highlights Afghan corruption

by Katherine Haddon, AFP

Sat Feb 19, 9:29 pm ET

KABUL (AFP) – Featuring a world-class poker player, a brother of the president and a reported $900 million in missing cash, the poisonous scandal over Afghanistan’s Kabul Bank could be straight out of a thriller.

But the near-collapse of the impoverished war-torn country’s biggest commercial lender is very real, highlighting endemic corruption among Kabul’s elite and threatening major losses for thousands of ordinary people.

As President Hamid Karzai’s government and Western officials trade fresh accusations over the affair, it also underlines stormy relations between the two sides, five months before a limited withdrawal of international troops starts.

Reuters

14 Libya turmoil boosts oil, restrains equities

By Jeremy Gaunt, European Investment Correspondent, Reuters

57 mins ago

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices charged to a fresh 2-1/2 year high Monday as traders eyed increasing violence in major producer Libya, feeding fears about rising inflation and unsettling other markets.

European equities fell on a combination of uncertainty over the future of the oil price, increasing signs that higher interest rates may be coming and more evidence of a surprisingly poor earnings season.

Together, they overshadowed reports of solid economic growth. U.S. markets were closed for a national holiday.

15 ECB’s Bini Smaghi says inflation a concern

By Farah Master, Reuters

2 hrs 40 mins ago

HONG KONG (Reuters) – European Central Bank board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi said on Monday the euro zone is enjoying better-than-expected economic growth, but warned inflation is becoming a concern and higher food and energy prices may be permanent.

“Things are better than expected in terms of growth (and) unemployment,” Bini Smaghi told a business lunch in Hong Kong.

In a speech that focused on the financial turmoil in Europe and prospects for the euro currency, he said there were concerns in the financial markets about euro zone’s higher-than-expected inflation and warned that higher energy and food prices may be something economies have to get used to.

16 G20 ministers fudge deal on imbalance indicators

By Louise Egan and Daniel Flynn, Reuters

Sat Feb 19, 2:04 pm ET

PARIS (Reuters) – Finance ministers of the world’s major economies reached a fudged accord on Saturday on how to measure imbalances in the global economy after China prevented the use of exchange rates and currency reserves as indicators.

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, who chaired the Group of 20 talks, said the deal nevertheless represented a significant step toward better coordination of economic policies worldwide to help prevent another financial crisis.

“It wasn’t simple. There were obviously divergent interests but we were able to reach a compromise on a text that seems to us to be both balanced and demanding in its implementation,” she told a news conference.

17 Iceland president forces new Icesave referendum

By Omar Valdimarsson, Reuters

Sun Feb 20, 1:14 pm ET

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) – Iceland’s president on Sunday triggered a referendum on an updated plan to repay $5 billion to Britain and the Netherlands for debts incurred in the financial crisis, renewing uncertainty over economic recovery.

Iceland, where the economy and financial system crashed in late 2008, owes Britain and the Netherlands money they used to bail out domestic savers who lost money in online “Icesave” accounts run by a failed Icelandic bank.

Icelandic President Olafur Grimsson said the new terms thrashed out over months of negotiation were better than the first deal, rejected by Icelanders last year.

18 Geithner points to China yuan spillover to others

By Glenn Somerville, Reuters

Sat Feb 19, 1:40 pm ET

PARIS (Reuters) – Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Saturday pointed to the problems China’s tightly controlled currency poses for other developing economies and said Beijing still had further to go to let its currency rise.

Talks at a Group of 20 meeting in Paris centered round efforts, led by Germany and G20 presidents France, to persuade China to include its yawning current account surplus and undervalued currency in a list of measures aimed to start a process of rebalancing the global economy.

There was little public evidence that the United States itself had pushed Beijing hard on that issue, but Geithner reiterated that there was still some way to go in the steady appreciation of the yuan.

19 "Buy everything" sentiment continues

By Angela Moon, Reuters

Sun Feb 20, 11:40 am ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Investors will continue to ride the speediest rally in U.S. stocks since the Great Depression despite growing concerns that the market is overbought and due for a correction.

Wall Street posted its third consecutive week of gains with the S&P 500 now up 6.8 percent for the year and more than 20 percent in just six months.

“I’ve never seen a market like this,” said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at Windham Financial Services in Charlotte, Vermont, a market watcher for 35 years.

20 Sweet spot in Mexico earns second look from investors

By Patrick Rucker, Reuters

Fri Feb 18, 8:25 pm ET

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s improving economic prospects, coupled with low inflation, are winning the country a second look from international investors and fund managers.

Investors see potential in Mexico’s services sector and in enticing more companies to market, and are also bullish about new financial tools which could send billions of dollars into infrastructure and private equity deals.

Expected economic growth of about 4 percent this year, combined with inflation of about 3.5 percent, compares well to regional peers, many of which are tightening monetary policy to fend off surging prices.

21 BATS buying Chi-X Europe, challenge national rivals

By Luke Jeffs and Jonathan Spicer, Reuters

Fri Feb 18, 6:15 pm ET

LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – BATS Global Markets, the U.S.-based exchange operator, is taking over peer Chi-X Europe in a deal that could put even more pressure on the dominance of national bourses that themselves are banding together to survive.

The deal to create so-called BATS Chi-X Europe, announced on Friday, is the latest in a spate of merger plans rocking the world’s stock-trading market.

Dealer-owned BATS said it expects the combination should face little regulatory resistance, and should ultimately position it to expand into more profitable derivatives trading, and possibly a listings business.

22 "Flash crash" panel calls for market overhaul

By Roberta Rampton and Jonathan Spicer, Reuters

Fri Feb 18, 5:45 pm ET

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Regulators should stem the growing tide of anonymous stock-trading and consider imposing fees on high-frequency traders, said a panel of experts advising how to avoid another “flash crash.”

The panel’s 14 recommendations for U.S. securities and futures regulators contained far-reaching ideas to overhaul the high-speed electronic market.

Yet many of the ideas issued on Friday called only for “consideration” or “further study” — potentially raising more questions as the first anniversary of the May 6 flash crash nears.

23 Citigroup sets exec bonuses, tied to profits

By Maria Aspan and Jonathan Stempel, Reuters

Fri Feb 18, 4:56 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Citigroup Inc (C.N), recovering after a series of government bailouts, will pay some top executives millions of dollars of cash bonuses if its core operations earn at least $12 billion before taxes over the next two years.

The awards “are intended to sharpen the executives’ focus” on long-term performance without excess risk, and align their interests with those of stockholders, the third-largest U.S. bank by assets said in a regulatory filing on Friday.

John Havens, the bank’s chief operating officer and a longtime confidant of Chief Executive Vikram Pandit, could get a $5.2 million bonus under the plan, and the sum could grow significantly higher if the bank performs well.

24 Corporate America’s economic outlook

By Emily Kaiser, Reuters

Sun Feb 20, 3:01 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Wall Street and the U.S. government statisticians seem to have very different views on the state of the economy.

Earnings expectations have risen since October for companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of big businesses, according to Thomson Reuters data. Lofty stock market indexes reflect that optimism.

Private surveys of manufacturers and small businesses show both confidence and hiring intentions improving.

AP

25 Libyan clashes hit stocks as oil prices surge

By PAN PYLAS, AP Business Writer

2 hrs 33 mins ago

LONDON – Fears that Libya is heading toward civil war weighed on stocks Monday and pushed oil prices sharply higher.

With reports suggesting that over 200 people have been killed in clashes across the country, which have spread to the capital of Tripoli, investors are getting increasingly worried about the escalating violence in one of Africa’s biggest oil producers.

Those concerns were heightened by a statement from Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of Libya’s longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. Blaming everyone from drug addicts to the media for the current turmoil afflicting Libya, he warned that civil war was a real possibility and that his father would fight until “the last bullet.”

26 For compromise in Wis., 3 GOP senators are needed

By RYAN J. FOLEY, Associated Press

Mon Feb 21, 3:05 am ET

MADISON, Wis. – To end a high-stakes stalemate over union rights that has captured the nation’s attention, a handful of Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin might have to stand up to their new governor.

Gov. Scott Walker made clear Sunday he won’t back off his proposal to effectively eliminate collective bargaining rights for most public employees. Senate Democrats who fled the state last week to delay the plan vowed not to come back to allow it to pass – even if they have to miss votes on other bills Tuesday. And union leaders said they would not let up on protests that have consumed Wisconsin’s capital city for a week and made the state the center of a national debate over the role of public employees’ unions.

That dynamic means it might take Republicans in the Legislature who believe Walker is going too far to try to break the impasse. One idea that has been floated by GOP Sen. Dale Schultz would temporarily take away bargaining rights to get through the state’s next two-year budget, then immediately restore them.

27 Memories of 1995 haunt GOP as shutdown talk grows

By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press

Mon Feb 21, 3:45 am ET

WASHINGTON – Few memories haunt Republicans more deeply than the 1995-96 partial shutdown of the federal government, which helped President Bill Clinton reverse his falling fortunes and recast House Republicans as stubborn partisans, not savvy insurgents.

Now, as Congress careens toward a budget impasse, government insiders wonder if another shutdown is imminent – and whether Republicans again would suffer the most blame.

Leaders of both parties say they are determined to avoid a shutdown. But they have not yielded on the amount of spending cuts they will demand or accept. Meanwhile, shutdown talk is rippling through Washington and beyond.

28 Gulf shares drop on Mideast unrest

By TAREK EL-TABLAWY, AP Business Writer

Sun Feb 20, 3:52 pm ET

CAIRO – Stocks markets across the Gulf Arab states fell Sunday, with Dubai’s largest exchange registering the steepest drop as unrest in the Mideast lapped at the shores of oil kingpin Saudi Arabia.

The Dubai Financial Market closed down 3.66 percent, to 1,536 points, with developer Emaar Properties’ shares sliding 4.73 percent. The company was the force behind the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. In Kuwait, the benchmark index closed down 2.52 percent, to 6,394, and bringing its year-to-date losses to more than 8 percent.

The drops in the oil-rich Gulf region’s exchanges are largely linked to the unrest in Bahrain, where massive protests have roiled the island nation for more than a week as the Shiite majority presses the Sunni monarchy for greater rights and freedoms. Meanwhile, a bloody crackdown on protesters in Libya has further rattled markets as the unrest spilled over to the first major oil producer in the Middle East.

29 NATO disputes claims it killed 64 Afghan civilians

By DEB RIECHMANN and RAHIM FAIEZ, Associated Press

Sun Feb 20, 3:10 pm ET

KABUL, Afghanistan – Tribal elders in a remote part of northeastern Afghanistan claimed Sunday that NATO forces killed 64 civilians in air and ground strikes over the past four days. The international coalition denied the claim, saying video showed troops targeting and killing dozens of insurgents.

Coalition and Afghan officials plan to go to the Ghazi Abad district of Kunbar province, a hotbed of the insurgency, on Monday to investigate. Civilian casualties have been a constant source of friction between coalition troops and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Tribal elders told the provincial governor that air strikes hit a village in the area and that “women and children had been killed inside their houses,” said Nawrdin Safi, a member of the Kunar provincial council.

30 Banks reopen in Egypt after week closure

By TAREK EL-TABLAWY, AP Business Writer

Sun Feb 20, 3:33 pm ET

CAIRO – Banks across Egypt threw open their doors Sunday, returning to business after an almost weeklong closure mandated by the central bank because of strikes and labor protests that have hampered efforts to reboot the nation’s economy.

It marked the second time in three weeks that Egypt’s banks have reopened after a state-ordered closure, highlighting the uncertainty that prevails in the country more than a week after mass demonstrations toppled longtime President Hosni Mubarak. An earlier attempt to open the banks and establish a semblance of normalcy during the height of the anti-government protests lasted only a week before the lenders were ordered shut.

Reopening the banks is a critical step in returning to business as usual in a country where the sense of hope sparked by Mubarak’s ouster is tempered by the frustration that comes with crafting a new political framework while also trying to allow people to move on with their lives.

31 Fuzzy compromise threatens relevance of G-20

By GABRIELE STEINHAUSER and GREG KELLER, AP Business Writers

Sat Feb 19, 4:42 pm ET

PARIS – The world’s dominant economies on Saturday struck a watered down deal on how to smooth out trade and currency imbalances many say exacerbated the financial crisis, but the difficulty in getting vastly different economies like China and the United States on the same page doesn’t bode well for the Group of 20 rich and developing countries as a forum for global decision making.

G-20 finance ministers and central bankers meeting in Paris agreed on a list of technical indicators to track those imbalances – caused by some countries consuming more while others tend to hold on to their money – but left the more tricky questions of when those imbalances actually become dangerous and what to do to mitigate them for later.

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, whose country holds the G-20 presidency this year, said the all-night talks had been “tense” at times, indicating the clash in national interests between countries that find themselves on completely divergent growth trajectories after the 2008 financial crisis that plunged the world into its worst economic recession in 70 years.

32 In Wyoming, push to mine rare earths in US forest

By MEAD GRUVER, Associated Press

Sun Feb 20, 12:13 pm ET

SUNDANCE, Wyo. – A Canadian company hoping to compete with China’s near-monopoly of rare earth elements – metals critical for everything from U.S. military weaponry to wind turbines – wants to open a strip mine inside a national forest in northeast Wyoming.

Processing raw ore into rare earths is an intensive operation that has been associated with radioactive water spills. But with China slashing exports of rare earths and Washington concerned the U.S. military could face a shortage of materials for lasers, smart bombs, guided missiles, night-vision goggles and jet engines, Don Ranta is optimistic about his Black Hills National Forest mine proposal.

“Everything we’ve seen so far looks very, very bullish for it to be a commercial project,” said Ranta, CEO of Vancouver, British Columbia-based Rare Element Resources. If approved and if it goes into production, the mine would be located about 15 miles from Devils Tower National Monument, the nation’s first national monument.

33 Big names eye real estate in blighted SF downtown

By ROBIN HINDERY, Associated Press

Sat Feb 19, 1:35 pm ET

SAN FRANCISCO – Josette Melchor spends much of her time devising ways to lure art lovers into the contemporary exhibition space she runs in downtown San Francisco, halfway between the city’s Civic Center and bustling Union Square.

She also spends time making sure other people stay out.

“We don’t have open doors, ever. They’re always locked,” said Melchor, whose Gray Area Foundation for the Arts sits at the convergence of the Tenderloin and Mid-Market, two of the city’s most downtrodden neighborhoods. “We must see 100 crimes every week out of these windows, and although the city wants it to change, it hasn’t happened.”

34 New Facebook status options applauded by gay users

By JOCELYN NOVECK, AP National Writer

Fri Feb 18, 9:36 pm ET

NEW YORK – Jay Lassiter is no longer “in a relationship.”

Let’s clarify that: Lassiter, a media adviser for political campaigns who lives in Cherry Hill, N.J., is still with his partner of nearly eight years, Greg Lehmkuho. But since Thursday, when Facebook expanded its romantic-status options, Lassiter’s profile there echoes his relationship’s legal status: “Domestic partnership.”

It may not be a life-altering change. After all, you can call yourself anything you want on a social network. And Facebook is merely that.

35 Detroit Symphony suspends season amid strike

By DAVID RUNK, Associated Press

Sat Feb 19, 6:57 pm ET

DETROIT – The Detroit Symphony Orchestra on Saturday suspended the rest of its season after musicians voted to reject management’s latest contract offer, dashing hopes for an end to a contentious walkout that has dragged on for months.

The musicians said no further meetings with management had been scheduled, but both sides said they remained committed to talks to end the more than four-month strike. The musicians said the 3-year, $36 million proposal – dubbed a final offer by management – would have saddled them with unacceptably higher heath care deductibles and travel costs.

“Today’s decision reflects our deep disappointment at the inability of the executives to be upfront and honest with people,” Gordon Stump, president of the Detroit Federation of Musicians, said in a statement.

36 Regulators close 4 Ga., Calif. banks; 22 in 2011

By MARCY GORDON, AP Business Writer

Fri Feb 18, 10:59 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Regulators on Friday shut down two small banks in Georgia and two in California, boosting to 22 the number of U.S. bank failures this year after the weak economy and mounting bad debt brought down 157 banks in 2010.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Friday seized Habersham Bank, based in Clarkesville, Ga., with $387.6 million in assets; Citizens Bank of Effingham, based in Springfield, Ga., with $214.3 million in assets; Charter Oak Bank of Napa, Calif., with $120.8 million in assets; and San Luis Trust Bank, based in San Luis Obispo, Calif., with $332.6 million in assets.

SCBT National Association, based in Orangeburg, S.C., agreed to assume the assets and deposits of Habersham Bank. HeritageBank of the South, based in Albany, Ga., is acquiring the assets and deposits of Citizens Bank of Effingham.

37 Freshmen spur GOP-run House on big spending cuts

By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press

Sat Feb 19, 12:30 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The GOP-run House, jolted by freshmen determined to drive down the deficit, snatched $61 billion from hundreds of federal programs while shielding coal companies, oil refiners and farms from new federal regulations.

Passage early Saturday of the $1.2 trillion bill, covering every Cabinet agency through Sept. 30, when the current budget year ends, sent the measure to the Senate, where it faces longer odds, and defied a White House veto threat.

The largely party-line vote of 235-189 was the most striking victory to date for the 87 freshman Republicans elected last fall on a promise to attack the deficit and reduce the reach of government. Three Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure.

38 Ford plans to team with Sollers in Russia

By SHARON SILKE CARTY and NATALIYA VASILYEVA, Associated Press

Fri Feb 18, 9:26 pm ET

DETROIT – Ford Motor Co. is teaming up with Russian automaker Sollers to make and distribute cars in Russia, one of the fastest growing auto markets.

Under a deal announced Friday, Sollers will build Fords at Russian plants, helping boost a struggling local industry. Ford will have access to a huge market that could bolster its revenues.

Financial details weren’t disclosed, but the automakers said they will have equal stakes in their joint venture called Ford Sollers. Ford declined to give production or sales targets for the venture.

39 Bernanke urges nations to help ease trade gaps

By GREG KELLER and JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Business Writers

Fri Feb 18, 1:13 pm ET

PARIS – Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Friday urged countries with large trade surpluses like China to let their currencies rise in value to help prevent another global financial crisis.

He also called on nations with persistent trade deficits like the United States to narrow their budget shortfalls and save more.

Both steps would help balance trade and investment flows among countries, Bernanke said in a speech at a financial conference in Paris. Many countries worry about speculative money flooding their economies and inflating assets like real estate or stocks.

40 Campbell says sales, profit dip; cuts guidance

By GEOFF MULVIHILL, Associated Press

Fri Feb 18, 6:20 pm ET

PHILADELPHIA – The Campbell Soup Co. sold more cans of soup in its fiscal second quarter, but at such deep discounts it drove down the company’s profit.

The quarterly decline was expected, but it came with some other bad news from the food maker. The outlook for the rest of the year is cloudy enough that Campbell lowered its full-year earnings and revenue guidance for the second time in about three months.

The Camden, N.J., company said Friday that its income fell 8 percent and sales were down 1 percent.

41 Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo seizes 4 international banks

By MARCO CHOWN OVED, Associated Press

Fri Feb 18, 4:32 pm ET

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – Ivory Coast’s incumbent leader who is clinging to power seized four major international banks Friday that had closed their operations earlier this week, attempting to pay civil servants amid a deepening liquidity crisis.

The spokesman for the sitting president, Laurent Gbagbo, read a decree on state TV late Thursday saying that the banks closed without giving the three months notice required by Ivorian law.

Ahoua Don Mello said the government would take over the offices of Britain’s Standard Chartered, France’s BNP-Paribas and Societe Generale along with U.S. bank Citibank. He also said that the government was imposing a citywide curfew, as panic spread.

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