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2.7%  Q1 GDP    4.57%  avg. 30-year mortgage     9.5%  Unemployment

Economy Watch: December 14, 2008 - December 20, 2008

Canada Pledges More Money for Autos

Automakers could be getting more money. A spokesman for the Canadian prime minister said his government would announce a bailout package for GM and Chrysler on Saturday. Officials were negotiating the package Friday. Canada had previously promised to provide aid...

By Kim Hart  |  December 19, 2008; 5:39 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Wall Street Closes Mixed

It was pessimistic going in the early morning, as European stocks fell on anticipation of lower opens for U.S. markets. But then Wall Street got a boost with the announcement of the administration's plan to extend loans to General Motors...

By Terri Rupar  |  December 19, 2008; 4:25 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Obama: Automakers 'Have to Step Up'

In a press conference this afternoon, President-elect Obama reiterated his support for the auto rescue plan, saying that "if any of these companies were to go under, it would have had a chain reaction through the economy. ... A collapse...

By Kim Hart  |  December 19, 2008; 2:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Barney Frank: Plan Is 'Unfair Assault' on Auto Workers

Barney Frank, (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, welcomed the auto bailout, "with one significant, regrettable exception." Most of the plan, he said, reflects agreements negotiated between the White House and Treasury and congressional Democrats. He also said...

By Kim Hart  |  December 19, 2008; 1:27 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
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S&P Downgrades Financial Institutions

Standard & Poor's downgraded the credit ratings of 11 financial institutions and lowered its outlook on another, saying the moves reflected its view of the industry in the face of "increasing bank industry risk and the deepening global economic slowdown."...

By Terri Rupar  |  December 19, 2008; 12:51 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
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Auto Workers, Suppliers, Dealers Show Relief

Dealers, manufacturers and other businesses with a stake in the auto industry are breathing a collective sigh of relief today. Annette Sykora, chairwoman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, said the auto rescue effort will help restore consumer confidence. "When...

By Kim Hart  |  December 19, 2008; 12:09 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
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Obama Applauds Auto Bailout

President-elect Barack Obama is praising President Bush's decision to offer more than $17 billion in loans to rescue the ailing auto industry. Obama is calling the rescue plan “a necessary step to help avoid a collapse in our auto industry...

By Kim Hart  |  December 19, 2008; 11:50 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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GM Executives on the Loan Plan

General Motors executives held a press conference in response to the federal government's announcement this morning that it would extend up to $17.4 billion in loans to GM and Chrysler. Some points: -They expect funds from the government before the...

By Terri Rupar  |  December 19, 2008; 11:43 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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GOP Denounces Auto Rescue

Republican members of Congress are expressing outrage at the Bush administration's auto bailout plan. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, a conservative lawmakers caucus, said he is "disappointed" with the decision to use TARP funds...

By Kim Hart  |  December 19, 2008; 11:13 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Stocks Get Boost From Auto Rescue Plan

Stocks opened higher today after the White House said it would provide the auto industry with as much as $17.4 billion in loans. The news reassured investors who have been worried about broader economic ramifications of a bankruptcy by General...

By Kim Hart  |  December 19, 2008; 9:52 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Lower Open Expected Today

A lower open is expected on Wall Street today, reflected partly by drops in major European indexes. Britain's FTSE 100 is down more than 2 percent, and Germany's and France's major indicators are down more than 1 percent. That's following...

By Terri Rupar  |  December 19, 2008; 7:09 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Fox Business Network Sues Treasury Department

Fox Business Network has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury Department for failing to provide information on the bailout funds or respond to the company's expedited requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act. The initial request, filed Nov....

By Kim Hart  |  December 18, 2008; 4:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
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Harry Potter Publisher Posts Profit Slump

Scholastic, the publisher of the Harry Potter books, said today that its profit fell 43 percent during the quarter ended Nov. 30, as consumers purchased fewer books and the company added severance payments and discontinued operations costs to its books....

By Kim Hart  |  December 18, 2008; 2:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Bush Says Bankruptcy May Be Option For Autos

An "orderly" bankruptcy may be the best way of handling the struggling U.S. auto industry, President Bush indicated today as he spoke before the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. However, he said he hasn't decided what action...

By Kim Hart  |  December 18, 2008; 12:09 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
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Wall Street Opens Up Slightly Before Falling

In the first 25 minutes of trading, stocks were up higher, but by 10 a.m. the Dow industrial appears flat after falling into negative territory by as much as 30 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 and the Nasdaq are...

By Sara Goo  |  December 18, 2008; 10:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Jobless Claims, Auto Bailout in Focus Today

This morning, we will get another update on the country's unemployment situation, which appears to be getting weaker by the week. The jobless claims for the week of December 13 will be released at 8:30 a.m. Also today, we'll look...

By Sara Goo  |  December 18, 2008; 7:10 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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More Dinners at Home Help Food Companies

To save money, consumers are going to restaurants less and eating at home more. And that's helping food companies stay afloat. General Mills, which makes Hamburger Helper and Progresso Soup, posted a profit for the quarter ended Nov. 23. The...

By Kim Hart  |  December 17, 2008; 2:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Mortgage Applications Get Boost

Falling interest rates are spurring home buyers to apply for mortgages, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Mortgage application volume rose a seasonally adjusted 2.9 percent to 841.4 in the week ended Dec. 12. A week earlier, the index stood...

By Kim Hart  |  December 17, 2008; 1:53 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Survey: Mortgage Payments Top Priority for U.S. Households

According to a survey of bill-payment patterns of U.S. households, mortgage payments are still the No. 1 priority bill for consumers, even as the mortgage delinquency rate has gone up 67 percent over past year. The survey was conducted by...

By Kim Hart  |  December 17, 2008; 11:17 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Motorola Freezes Pensions, Cuts Executive Salaries

Cellphone maker Motorola said today that it plans to permanently freeze its U.S. pension plans in response to the poor economic conditions across the globe. The company also said it will temporarily stop matching 401(k) contributions and reduce the base...

By Kim Hart  |  December 17, 2008; 10:05 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Stocks Open Lower After Yesterday's Surge

Stocks opened lower this morning as investors seemed to lose their enthusiasm over yesterday's interest-rate cut by the Federal Reserve. In early trading, investors were reminded of worsening economic conditions and dismal company performances. After the Dow Jones Industrial average...

By Kim Hart  |  December 17, 2008; 9:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Morgan Stanley Posts $2.37 Billion Loss

Morgan Stanley said this morning that it lost $2.37 billion in its fiscal fourth quarter, serving as one more reminder of the battering the financial industry has taken. Morgan Stanley is trying to build on its new status as a...

By Kim Hart  |  December 17, 2008; 9:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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What's Happening in the Economy Today

Today, we'll be watching for possible news from the Bush administration about progress on an auto bailout. If you recall, last week the House passed a bill to provide $14 billion in aid to the automakers, but the Senate did...

By Sara Goo  |  December 17, 2008; 7:10 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Paulson: "I'm Expecting No Other Major Financial Institutions To Fail"

Treasury Secretary Henry H. Paulson Jr. just stopped by CNBC for a grilling from Maria Bartiromo. Here are some highlights: --On today's historic Fed rate cut: "I think we are very fortunate that we have a Federal Reserve that's willing...

By Michael S. Rosenwald  |  December 16, 2008; 4:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
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Detroit Newspapers Shifting Focus to Online

In even more gloomy news from the newspaper sector, executives from Detroit's two largest newspapers said the rapidly changing economics of the industry were forcing them to cut home delivery to just three days a week. The Detroit Media Partnership,...

By Michael S. Rosenwald  |  December 16, 2008; 3:53 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
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Fed Cuts Key Interest Rate to Historic Low

The Federal Reserve just announced it is cutting the federal funds to a target range of zero to .25 percent, an unprecedented move as the government scrambles to repair the economy. The rate at which banks loan to each other...

By Michael S. Rosenwald  |  December 16, 2008; 2:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
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OPEC Slashes Oil Production

Saudi Arabian officials, concerned about a rapid fall in oil prices, said OPEC will cut oil production by about 2 million barrels a day. Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producer in OPEC. Saudi oil minister Ali Naimi said “supply...

By Michael S. Rosenwald  |  December 16, 2008; 11:39 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
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Best Buy Profit Tumbles

Best Buy's third quarter profit plunged 77 percent as the economic slowdown finally caught up with the nation's largest consumer electronics retailer. The Minneapolis company, which had given Richmond-based Circuit City headaches for years, now finds itself taking similar steps...

By Michael S. Rosenwald  |  December 16, 2008; 10:58 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Wall Street Opens Higher Ahead of Fed Rate Decision

Wall Street seems to be bullish on the Federal Reserve's interest rate decision expected later today. So far, after 20 minutes of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average is up 1.1 percent, or 98 points. The broader Standard & Poor's...

By Sara Goo  |  December 16, 2008; 9:52 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Housing Starts, Inflation, Both Fall

The downturn in housing shows no sign of bottoming. Data released from the federal government this morning showed that housing starts in November fell to 625,000 on a seasonally adjusted, annualized basis -- a nearly 19 percent drop from the...

By Washington Post Editor  |  December 16, 2008; 8:48 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Dec. 16, 2008

A very skillful criminal can almost always outfox the regulator or the overseer." — Former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt, who knew and worked with Bernard L. Madoff....

By washingtonpost.com Editors  |  December 16, 2008; 7:31 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
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All Eyes on the Fed

Today, the markets will look to the conclusion of the Federal Reserve's two day meeting to see whether there's a decision to cut interest rates again. As The Post's Neil Irwin points out, the Fed is widely expected to cut...

By Sara Goo  |  December 16, 2008; 7:15 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Zuckerman on Ponzi Scheme: 'This Breaks My Heart'

Mort Zuckerman, the real estate investor and media mogul, just told CNBC that about 11 percent, or $30 million, of his charitable trust has been lost in the alleged ponzi scheme orchestrated by Bernard Madoff. Zuckerman's trust money was invested...

By Michael S. Rosenwald  |  December 15, 2008; 2:53 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Homebuilder Sentiment: Still Not Good

The National Association of Home Builders' housing market index stayed at record low levels in December. For the second straight month, the index reading came at a 9. Readings over 50 indicate positive sentiment, so it doesn't take too much...

By Michael S. Rosenwald  |  December 15, 2008; 2:40 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Auto Bailout Talks Continuing

Many of you are probably wondering where the auto bailout is. Answer: Not here yet. After efforts failed in Congress to give the Big Three a lifeline until President-elect Obama takes office, all eyes turned to the White House, which...

By Michael S. Rosenwald  |  December 15, 2008; 12:59 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Alleged Ponzi Scheme Grows

Word came this morning, via various media reports, that a number of rather recognizable names are caught up a ponzi scheme allegedly perpetrated by investor Bernard Madoff. The names include: Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, real estate investor/media magnate Mort Zuckerman...

By Michael S. Rosenwald  |  December 15, 2008; 11:10 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
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Oil Prices Jump Ahead of OPEC Meeting

OPEC meets later this week and investors are betting the organization, which is responsible for 40 percent of the world's oil supply, will slash production as the global economic downturn deepens. In New York Mercantile Exchange trading today, oil has...

By Michael S. Rosenwald  |  December 15, 2008; 10:07 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Stocks Mixed at the Opening Bell

Any hope that Wall Street would reflect optimism on an auto bailout today by moving the markets higher quickly disappeared this morning shortly after the opening bell. So far, the markets are hovering between negative and positive territory. After 20...

By Sara Goo  |  December 15, 2008; 9:53 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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This Week: Auto Bailout in Focus

Markets in Asia closed higher today on the expectation that Washington -- this time, the White House -- would help out the auto industry and keep General Motors in business into next year. It remains unclear how exactly the administration...

By Sara Goo  |  December 15, 2008; 7:35 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
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