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Freddie’s fans, Merrill’s mess
Ailing Freddie Mac gets some love from investors in Europe and Asia. Merrill Lynch reports on a very bad quarter. And Barbie has a big win over an upstart rival  
 

NEWS AT A GLANCE

Freddie Mac gets foreign vote of confidence

European and Asian investors snatched up a $3 billion offering of Freddie Mac bonds at near-record yields, in a sign that foreign central banks have faith in the beleaguered U.S. mortgage giant. Foreign investors, including central banks, snapped up 61 percent of the 2-year notes, up from 55 percent in May. (Bloomberg) Freddie is reportedly considering selling $10 billion in new shares to raise capital. That could make the new government rescue plan unnecessary. Freddie's shares rose this week, though they are still down 76 percent on the year. Freddie's board is looking at "the full array of options before us," said Freddie CEO Richard Syron, adding, "We're not at the stage of talking about the exact when." (The Wall Street Journal)

Merrill posts steep loss

No. 3 U.S. securities firm Merrill Lynch reported a much-worse-than-expected $4.65 billion quarterly net loss, after writing down $9.7 billion in credit-related assets. Moody's downgraded Merrill's credit rating and Merrill's stock sank in extended trading. (Bloomberg) Merrill confirmed that, to cushion the loss, it is selling about $8 billion in assets, including its Financial Data Services unit, worth $3.5 billion, and its 20 percent stake in Bloomberg LP for $4.43 billion. (MarketWatch) "They are raiding the crown jewels to raise capital," said analyst Doug Roberts at Channel Capital Research. (The Washington Post) Citigroup, the No. 1 U.S. bank, posted a less-than-expected $2.5 billion loss, on $7.2 billion in writedowns. (AP in Yahoo! Finance)

Google, Microsoft disappoint

Tech giants Google and Microsoft reported slightly-lower-than-forecast quarterly profits, sending their shares down in extended trading. Google earned $1.25 billion, a 35 percent gain, and Microsoft's profit rose 42 percent, to $4.3 billion. Microsoft trimmed its forecast for the new fiscal year, however, and Google reported high research and legal expenses and a slowdown in ad-click growth. (Bloomberg) "In this market, any sign of any weakness or bad news at all is seized upon, and no prisoners are taken," said Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Jeffrey Lindsay. (Los Angeles Times) IBM, meanwhile, beat expectations with a 22 percent rise in profit, to $2.77 billion, and raised its full-year profit outlook by 25 cents a share. (AP in Yahoo! Finance)

Greenwashed

Companies of every stripe, from banks to dishwasher makers, have been touting their environmental bona fides, but ad firms say “greenwashing”—making misleading claims about a product’s ecological benefits—is dragging down all such ads. Some of the weaker or more dubious green claims—a Japanese SUV “conceived and developed in the homeland of the Kyoto accords,” for example—are making consumers skeptical off all environmental advertising, or angry. Ad agencies recommend making specific, verifiable claims, and they have created new green ad teams to help. “Green is ubiquitous, and you have to do something pretty different to distinguish yourself,” said Seattle ad executive Arlene Fairfield. (The New York Times)

 

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