June 21, 2010 in Business

Business update: Borrowers exit mortgage program

Associated Press

The Obama administration’s flagship effort to help people in danger of losing their homes is falling flat. More than a third of the 1.24 million borrowers who have enrolled in the $75 billion mortgage modification program have dropped out. That’s more than the 27 percent who have managed to have their loan payments reduced to help them keep their homes. Last month alone, 150,000 borrowers left the program — bringing the total to 436,000 who have exited since it began in March 2009. Administration officials say borrowers will get help in other ways. But analysts fear the majority will still wind up in foreclosure.

Stocks extend gains as China eases currency policy: Stocks extended their winning streak today after China said it would allow its currency to appreciate against the dollar, a move that could provide a boost for U.S. manufacturers and exporters. The Dow Jones industrial average rose for a fifth day, adding about 75 points in afternoon trading. Broader indexes also climbed but, like the Dow, pulled off their highs.

High court lifts ban on biotech alfalfa: The Supreme Court today ruled that a federal judge went too far when he banned the planting of genetically engineered alfalfa seeds after claims that the plants might harm the environment. In a 7-1 vote, the court reversed a federal appeals court ruling that had prohibited Monsanto Co. from selling alfalfa seeds because they are resistant to the popular weed killer Roundup. The U.S. Agriculture Department must now decide whether to allow the genetically-modified seeds to be planted.

Regulators OK plan to police banks’ pay policies: Federal regulators today adopted a plan to ensure that banks’ pay policies don’t encourage employees to take reckless gambles like those that contributed to the recent financial crisis. The plan, originally proposed by the Federal Reserve last year, was also endorsed by other key banking regulators — the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision. Many banks’ practices have been found deficient in curbing risk-taking based on an in-depth analysis by regulators, the Fed said.

Survey: Individual health insurance premiums jump: People who buy their own health insurance have been hit lately with premium hikes that far exceed increases in the premiums for employer-sponsored coverage, according to a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The nonprofit foundation, which is separate from health insurer Kaiser Permanente, said recent premium hikes for individual coverage averaged 20 percent. Some customers were able to switch plans and pay less so people paying on their own actually wound up paying 13 percent more on average.

At a glance: Electronic reader prices: Barnes & Noble cut the price on its original Nook electronic book reader, which could signal the start of a price war for dedicated electronic readers. Here are some retail prices for electronic book readers and Apple’s iPad.

Amazon.com’s Kindle: $259

Barnes & Noble’s original Nook: $199

Barnes & Noble’s new Wi-Fi-only Nook: $149

Borders’ Kobo eReader, shipping in July: $149

Apple’s iPad: Starts at $499

Sony Reader Pocket Edition Digital Book: $169

Sony Reader Daily Edition Digital Book: $349.99

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