BUSINESS DIGEST

The Baltimore Sun

30-year mortgages lowest since February

WASHINGTON : Rates on 30-year mortgages dropped sharply again this week, falling to the lowest level in seven months, as rates continue to decline after the government's takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Freddie Mac reported yesterday that its nationwide survey found 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages declined to 5.78 percent this week, down from 5.93 percent last week. It was the fifth consecutive weekly decline and pushed the 30-year mortgage to the lowest level since it stood at 5.72 percent the week of Feb. 14. The decreases have accelerated over the past two weeks since the government announced on Sept. 7 that it was taking control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac because of huge losses the companies were experiencing due to soaring defaults on mortgage loans as home prices slump.

Associated Press

Md. comptroller eases gasoline blend rules

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot says he is allowing gasoline stations in the state to immediately sell a heavier blend of gasoline normally not allowed to be sold until after Oct. 1. The move is intended to increase the gasoline supply available for sale in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike's effect on refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. Franchot stressed that there is no shortage of gas in Maryland, and he does not expect one. Instead, he says the decision is intended to help consumers through the spike in gasoline prices that took place after the hurricane. The heavier blend is not usually sold from May through September to prevent pollution and occurrences of vapor lock. The early sale of the fuel is not expected to cause adverse reactions to vehicles.

Associated Press

State pension system blocks short-selling tactic

Reacting to the meltdown on Wall Street, the State Retirement and Pension System of Maryland said yesterday that it has moved to keep short-sellers from borrowing its shares of financial-services companies to conduct their transactions. The system, which has a program that temporarily lends securities to other investors for a fee, has removed financial stocks from that program. Short-sellers sell borrowed shares, intending to buy them later for less and turn a profit. New York state said yesterday that it has launched an investigation into potentially illegal short-selling tactics.

Jamie Smith Hopkins

Versa makes bankruptcy bid for Boscov's chain

WILMINGTON, Del.: The Boscov's department store chain is seeking approval of a Delaware bankruptcy court for a possible buyout. Philadelphia-based Versa Capital Management has emerged as the lead bidder for Reading, Pa.-based Boscov's, which filed for Chapter 11 protection in August and announced that it would close 10 of its 49 stores, including three in the Baltimore area. According to papers filed with the court Wednesday, Versa has offered to pay $11 million in cash and assume Boscov's debt. Attorneys for Boscov's are seeking a hearing next week to approve the proposed bid procedures and schedule an October auction or sale date. The court filings indicate that Versa wants to operate the department store chain as a going concern and that Boscov's senior managers will remain involved with the business.

Associated Press

Former Allstate chief to take charge of AIG

CHARLOTTE, N.C. : American International Group Inc. said yesterday it has named former Allstate Corp. Chief Executive Officer Edward Liddy as chairman and chief executive in the wake of the Federal Reserve's taking a controlling stake in the troubled insurer. Liddy, who joined the private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice as a partner four months ago, replaces Robert Willumstad, who took over the company in June. AIG, one of the world's largest insurers, teetered on the brink of bankruptcy this week as it sought fresh cash to help shore up its balance sheet, which was facing a liquidity crunch amid the continued downturn in the credit markets.

Associated Press

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