Federal regulators are weighing enforcement action against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if the two mortgage finance giants don't turn over more information about proprietary systems they have developed to help lenders assess the creditworthiness of mortgage applicants. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulators say they want the systems to be more transparent to ensure that consumers aren't unfairly discriminated against in the loan-approval process. Fannie Mae said it will turn over more information if HUD can assure it that the material will be kept confidential. Freddie Mac said it has given HUD extensive information. HUD actions could include imposing fines up to $1 million a day against the congressionally chartered companies.
Construction spending surged 2.6 percent in November, the biggest increase in 17 months. Economists had been expecting an advance of around 0.3 percent. The Commerce Department said the surge was led by large increases in spending on housing, commercial buildings and highways. It followed three straight months of declines.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago said about $700,000 in tax payments were posted a day late because of computer problems related to this weekend's rollover into the year 2000. "We said from the beginning there would be minor glitches, and this was a minor glitch and it was easily fixed," said Fed spokeswoman Rose Pianalto. The problem was discovered Monday and involved tax payments from customers of 60 financial institutions that use the Chicago Fed to process transactions, Pianalto said.
DaimlerChrysler, Toyota and Honda had record car and light-truck sales in the United States in 1999, boosting the industry to its best year as discounts and higher consumer incomes stoked demand. The Chrysler division's sales climbed 5.1 percent, capped by a 0.7 percent gain in December. Toyota's 1999 sales gained 8.4 percent, while Honda's increased 6.7 percent. Industry sales of about 17 million broke the 1986 record of 16.03 million. European and Asian automakers gained market share at the expense of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.
Bell Atlantic can proceed with plans to sell long-distance service in New York, a federal appeals court ruled in a setback for two competitors. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied a request by AT&T and Covad Communications Group to delay Bell Atlantic's service until the court completes a review of the FCC's order authorizing the service.
The Village Voice and six other alternative weeklies have been purchased by a group of investors, according to a spokeswoman for the publisher. The leading partner of the group is Weiss, Peck & Greer, a money-management firm with offices in New York and San Francisco. The group bought the papers from Stern Publishing, which has revenue of more than $80 million and 500 employees. The specifics of the deal were not released.
America Online of Dulles said it is teaming with Liquid Audio to offer that company's catalogue of digital music through AOL's online music services. Shares of Liquid Audio of Redwood City, Calif., jumped $5 after the announcement to close at $31.12 1/2.