Mortgage rates drop
Average interest rates on fixed mortgages fell this week to their lowest point in two months. The decline follows the Federal Reserve’s decision last week to hold off slowing its monthly bond purchases. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average rate on the 30-year loan dropped to 4.32 percent from 4.50 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan declined to 3.37 percent from 3.54 percent.
Both are the lowest averages since July 25. Mortgage rates are nearly a full percentage point higher than in May, when the Fed first signaled it might slow its $85 billion-a-month in bond buys. But last week the Fed kept the pace steady after lowering its outlook for economic growth.
Car tech firm Livio bought
Seeking to devise systems that better link car passengers’ mobile phones to their vehicles, Ford announced it acquired software company Livio for less than $10 million. The automaker plans to retain all 11 full-time employees at Ferndale, Mich.-based Livio.
Ford Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally has made in-car technology a pillar of the second-largest U.S. carmaker’s vehicles with features including Sync voice commands and MyFord Touch controls. Systems that integrate cars with mobile phones will be used in 21 million vehicles by 2018, from just 1.9 million last year, according to researchers GSMA and SBD.
Government sells shares
The U.S. government is starting another phase of selling off its General Motors stock after cutting its stake in the automaker to just over 7 percent. The Treasury Department says it still owns 101.3 million GM shares. It got 912 million shares, a 60.8 percent stake in the company, in exchange for a $49.5 billion bailout of GM in 2009. So far taxpayers have recovered about $35.4 billion. To break even, the remaining shares would have to sell for nearly $140 each. At its current trading price of about $37, the government would get about $3.7 billion more. So taxpayers are likely to lose around $10 billion on the deal. The Treasury plans to sell all of its shares by April 1.
Auto parts price fixing crimes
Nine Japanese auto parts manufacturers and two of their executives will plead guilty and pay $740 million in criminal fines for conspiring to fix the prices of more than 30 products sold to many of the world’s largest automakers operating in the U.S., the Justice Department announced.
The action is the latest development in the largest criminal investigation the Justice Department’s criminal division has carried out. To date, it has resulted in charges against 20 companies and 21 executives, and the companies have agreed to pay $1.6 billion in criminal fines.
From steering assemblies to seat belts, the price-fixing conspiracies went on for more than a decade and affected more than $5 billion in auto parts sold to U.S. car manufacturers and installed in cars sold in the United States and elsewhere. In all, more than 25 million cars purchased by American consumers have been affected by the illegal conduct.
Knight wants truck firm
Knight Transportation Inc. of Phoenix made a hostile bid to buy Van Buren, Ark.-based USA Truck Inc. in a $242 million transaction and said a combination would allay risk in the short-haul carrier’s turnaround plan and bring value to shareholders.
Knight Chief Executive Officer Kevin Knight said he’d be prepared to “modestly increase” a $9 per share proposed offer price if additional value is identified. Knight, which had sought a response by Sept. 6., said an acquisition would bolster USA Truck’s turnaround plan and help reverse eight consecutive quarters of net losses.
Compiled from staff and wire reports