Monday PM December 3rd, 2007

Agreement could temporarily freeze interest rates for struggling homeowners...Manufacturing expands, but at slower pace...Venture capitalists investing 46 percent more in clean technology so far than all of 2006...

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is expressing confidence that an agreement should soon be in place to help thousands of homeowners avoid mortgage defaults by temporarily freezing their interest rates. Paulson says the effort involves a "pragmatic response'' to the worst housing slump in decades. The number of homeowners struggling to meet higher payments is soaring as introductory, lower rates are resetting. Paulson and other top treasury officials have been holding talks with key players in the mortgage industry over the past several weeks. The plan envisions freezing the introductory rates to keep them from resetting to higher levels for a number of years. In his remarks today, Paulson said a new hotline is available to help people worried about losing their homes. That number is 1-888-995-HOPE.

A trade group reports that the nation's manufacturing sector continued to expand last month, at a slightly slower pace. The Institute for Supply Management says its manufacturing index came in at 50.8. That's down from 50.9 in October. Any number above 50 indicates growth. The report was stronger than expected.

U.S. venture capitalists invested 46 percent more in clean technology in the first three quarters of 2007, according to the Houston Business Journal. Firms invested a record $2.6 billion in that period, compared to $1.8 billion in all of 2006. Texas attracted $149.4 million in capital.

Diamond Offshore Drilling has been awarded four drilling contracts valued at about $2.3 billion by Brazil's Petrobras, according to the Houston Business Journal. The Houston-based contract drilling services company will provide four semi-submersible drilling rigs in five- and six-year contracts.

The first week of December is loaded with reports that Wall Street will be watching for an idea of how the economy is faring. Later this week, the Labor Department will report on employment during September, and the University of Michigan has a look at how consumers are faring in these days of tight credit and a soft housing market.

The national debt is expanding at the rate of about $1.4 billion a day, nearly $1 million a minute. The debt now comes to about $30,000 for every living American. And, like homeowners with adjustable-rate mortgages, the government faces the prospect of seeing the debt balloon in the same manner. It will have nearly doubled under President Bush's watch by the time he leaves office. Congress recently raised the debt ceiling to make sure the government can continue to operate. And experts say without major tax hikes or spending cuts, it may be next to impossible to chisel down the debt, no matter who controls Congress and the White House.

Tags: News


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