Senate retools bailout, schedules vote

The Senate agreed to vote late today on a slightly revamped version of the $700 billion financial rescue package rejected by the House Monday. To sweeten the bill, Senate and White House negotiators agreed to add a temporary increase in the FDIC insurance on bank accounts to $250,000, from $100,000, and a two-year extension of some tax breaks. (Bloomberg) Buoyed in part by hopes that the new bill will pass both houses, most Asian markets closed higher today. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) In credit markets, overnight interbank lending rates eased somewhat, helped by central-bank dollar injections and the start of the fourth quarter, but longer-term money market rates were still frozen. (Reuters)

SEC loosens mark-to-market rules

The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Accounting Standards Board relaxed mark-to-market accounting rules. In an “interpretation” of existing law, the SEC told financial firms that they didn’t have to book all illiquid, distressed assets, like many mortgage-backed securities, at their current fair market value. This could help banks pare third-quarter losses. (The New York Times) Some members of Congress blame the mark-to-market rule, written to increase market transparency, for exacerbating the credit crisis. Others disagree. The SEC statement “could be titled, pick a number, any number, as it gives bankers great leeway in choosing what numbers they will give to investors,” said former SEC chief accountant Lynn Turner. (Reuters)

Miner Xstrata drops $10 billion bid for rival

Swiss mining giant Xstrata dropped its $10 billion bid for Lonmin, the world’s No. 3 platinum producer, citing financing difficulties tied to the turmoil in the credit markets. “The debt markets have conspired against them,” said analyst Charles Kernot at Evolution Securities in London. (Bloomberg) Xstrata and Lonmin shares have both dropped sharply since Xstrata’s Aug. 6 bid. Xstrata jumped 10 percent on the news; Lonmin shares dropped as much as 30 percent. (Reuters) In other mining news, Australian antitrust regulators cleared BHP Billiton’s $119 billion hostile bid for Rio Tinto, increasing the chances that Europe, Canada, and South Africa will OK the deal, too. The U.S. has already cleared it. (MarketWatch)

Fixing typewriters, with an eye to the future

New York’s Gramercy Typewriter has changed with the times, since its founding in 1932—it now fixes laser printers and fax machines along with its original goal of repairing typewriters. But typewriters still make up a good chunk of proprietor Paul Schweitzer’s house calls and shop repairs. Offices still keep some old machines around for certain tasks, and people bring in typewriters for sentimental, artistic, or business reasons. “If an office had 200 typewriters, now they had 40,” says Schweitzer, 69, adding, “They still needed repairs.” Schweitzer inherited the business from his father, and he hopes to pass it down to his son. “I’m thinking, what is the next thing after printers?” he says. (