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More Bank Headaches, More Buffett Buys
European banks are hit by new write-downs, and rumors of more still to come. Warren Buffett snaps up a big stake in Kraft, among other buys. And identity theft can get personal, even if it doesn
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EWS AT A GLANCE

More bad news at European banks

French bank Natixis issued an unexpected profit warning and wrote down $1.75 billion in assets tied to U.S. subprime mortgages. The news sent its stock down 13 percent early today. (MarketWatch) Swiss banking giant UBS also fell, for a second day, after Citigroup analysts said that UBS could face $18 billion in additional write-downs this year, following $18 billion last year. (Reuters) Worldwide, UBS analyst Philip Finch said banks could write down another $120 billion this year, especially if the bond insurance crisis worsens. “Banks have made progress in credit-market related writedowns,” he said. “But more are expected.” (Bloomberg)

Buffett goes shopping

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway said it acquired an 8.6 percent stake in Kraft Foods, or 132.4 million shares, last year, making it Kraft’s largest shareholder. The stake is currently worth about $3.9 billion. Buffett also bought 1.5 million shares in British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, worth $76 million at the end of last year. (CNBC) Buffett also increased his holdings in Wells Fargo and CarMax, the largest U.S. used-car dealer. With stock prices depressed, “Warren Buffett is having a field day,” said Frank Betz at Carret Zane Capital Management in Warren, N.J. “He’s always looking, but now he’s seeing things that meet his standards.” (Bloomberg)

Bernanke sees weakness, not recession

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, said that the U.S. economy was in worse shape than previously thought, due to stubborn housing and mortgage-related troubles. He said the Fed was ready to cut interest rates further, if needed. (Reuters) Both Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, also testifying, said they expected the U.S. to avoid a recession this year. (The New York Times, free registration) Separately, former Fed Chariman Alan Greenspan said the U.S. was “clearly on the edge” of a recession, however, with the odds of falling in at “50 percent or better.” (Bloomberg)

Looking for love, borrowing from others

In a new, and less costly, form of identity theft, online-dating plagiarist are copying and pasting sections—or the entirety—of dating and social-networking profiles for use to promote themselves. Researchers say that online daters feel the same pressure as businesses to stand out from the competition and sell a product, in this case themselves. But those whose witty lines and personal ruminations have been poached think it’s unethical and a little creepy. It actually helped Lavonna Short, though, who rewrote her profile, and found love, after seeing someone’s else’s replication of it. “When I saw myself through someone else’s eyes, I didn’t like it,” she says. (The Wall Street Journal)

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