in brief


SHANGHAI

March passenger-car sales in China rise from year earlier

China's passenger-car sales jumped 63 percent in March from a year earlier as manufacturers scrambled to meet strong demand driven by tax cuts and government subsidies, a state-affiliated industry group said Friday.

Passenger-car sales rose to 1.26 million vehicles in March, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

The figures show sustained growth for automakers in a market that bounced back from a slowdown in late 2008-09 as the government pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into economic stimulus.

Weak sales in the U.S. and a surge in car purchases by newly affluent Chinese buyers helped to make this the world's largest auto market last year, when total vehicle sales jumped 45 percent over 2008 to 13.6 million units.

WASHINGTON

Wholesale inventories up more than expected in February

Inventories held by wholesalers rose by a larger-than-expected amount in February while sales increased for the 11th consecutive month.

The Commerce Department said Friday that inventories at the wholesale level were up 0.6 percent in February, better than the 0.4 percent increase analysts had expected. Sales rose 0.8 percent, surpassing the 0.5 percent rise economists had forecast.

The inventory increase followed a 0.1 percent rise in January, which was initially reported as a decline of 0.2 percent.

The rise in sales followed a 0.9 percent January advance and marked the 11th straight month that sales have been up.

ATLANTIC CITY

Wynn says he's not interested in Revel, Atlantic City projects

Las Vegas casino developer Steve Wynn said Friday that he's not interested in Atlantic City's stalled Revel casino project -- or anything else here, either.

Wynn stunned Philadelphia this week by pulling out of a deal to build a casino on the Delaware River. That immediately touched off speculation that he was instead interested in Revel, which Wall Street giant Morgan Stanley abandoned last week.

But Wynn Resorts Ltd. spokeswoman Jennifer Dunne told The Associated Press the company is not interested in Revel, or any other project in the nation's second-largest gambling market.

Morgan Stanley owns more than 94 percent of the half-finished Revel, and it is prepared to take "a substantial loss" on a project it has already sunk $1.2 billion into.

Wynn said in a statement he was "fascinated" by the legalization of table games in Pennsylvania, but said the proposed Foxwoods Philadelphia deal "did not, in the end, present an opportunity that was appropriate for our company."

WASHINGTON

Political goals said to figure in risky Fannie Mae investments

Two former Fannie Mae executives said Friday that competitive pressures, combined with the political goal of increasing homeownership, were to blame for the company's decision to back riskier mortgages that fueled the housing bubble.

Daniel Mudd, Fannie Mae's former chief executive, and Robert Levin, the company's former chief business officer, testified before a panel examining the roots of the financial crisis. Both executives left Fannie Mae after regulators seized it in fall 2008.

Mudd stopped short of a full apology for the company's collapse and the more than $75 billion it has cost taxpayers so far.

Before the housing bust, Fannie Mae executives worried the mortgage finance company was becoming irrelevant. Wall Street firms had muscled into the mortgage-backed securities business and were stealing its market share, according to a July 2005 internal presentation disclosed by the panel.

While executives were aware of "growing concern about housing bubbles," the presentation said, they also feared the company could come a "niche player" amid competition from Wall Street.

Atlantic City casino revenues down 5.6 percent in March

Atlantic City's casino revenues in March were down by 5.6 percent from a year ago.

The city's 11 casinos won $300.8 million last month. Slot machines brought in $207.3 million, down 5 percent, while table games brought in $93.5 million, down 6.8 percent.

Although lower than last year, the numbers were encouraging, if only because double-digit declines had become the norm since slots parlors opened in neighboring states three years ago, siphoning off some of Atlantic City's most profitable customers.

Only one casino, Harrah's Resort Atlantic City, posted an increase in revenue last month, up nearly 5 percent.

ATHENS, Greece

Greek finance minister says IMF, eurozone in negotiations

Greece faces the very real prospect that it will need a bailout designed to prevent the country from defaulting -- but markets have been on edge as officials work out details on how a rescue would be carried out.

Greece's finance minister said Friday key aspects of a previously agreed rescue plan by eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund were being hammered out, even as he insisted no bailout was needed.

The vaguely worded rescue plan agreed on in Brussels on March 25 would provide Greece with loans from other eurozone governments and the International Monetary Fund.

EU sources said Friday night that a decision had been made on how the interest rates for the loans would be calculated.

ST. LOUIS

Yes, it's true: The North Face, The South Butt agree to deal

The North Face Apparel Corp. has settled its lawsuit against The South Butt, a Missouri teenager's company that marketed clothing with a not-so-subtle logo and tag line that parodied the outdoor clothing giant.

Terms were not disclosed in the settlement agreement entered Friday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, but The South Butt was still offering its T-shirts, fleece jackets, backpacks and sweat shirts on its Web site Friday afternoon.

The South Butt was started two year ago by Jimmy Winkelmann of suburban St. Louis, though he's now a 19-year-old college freshman studying biomedical engineering at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

The company sells products with the tag line, "Never Stop Relaxing," a parody of The North Face line, "Never Stop Exploring."

A wavelike pattern and the company name appear near the upper right or left shoulder on jackets and shirts, similar to the logo and placement used by The North Face.

The North Face, a San Leandro, Calif.-based division of VF Corp, sued in December.

 

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