Published: Apr 12, 2010 10:35 AM EDT

March budget deficit declines to $65.4B

WASHINGTON (AP) — The budget deficit for March showed a dramatic decline as the Obama administration formally entered a lower ultimate cost for the government's $700 billion financial bailout program.

The Treasury Department said the deficit for March totaled $65.4 billion, compared to a $191.6 billion imbalance a year ago. However, $115 billion of that improvement occurred because the administration lowered its estimate of the total costs for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The lower bailout estimate had already been included in the administration's budget which it sent to Congress in February but it had not been included until March in the Treasury Department's monthly accounting of outlays and receipts.

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Dow ends above 11,000 for first time in 18 months

NEW YORK (AP) — The Dow Jones industrial average has closed above 11,000 for the first time in a year and a half on investors' rising hopes about the economy.

The Dow edged up about 9 points Monday to almost 11,006. The Standard & Poor's 500 index came within a point of hitting its own milestone of 1,200 during trading but closed just short of that mark.

The Dow has posted six straight weekly advances, its longest winning streak in a year. The index has added 1,000 points in two months. The index's only close below 10,000 this year came on Feb. 8. Since then, it's up 11 percent.

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Alcoa narrows 1Q loss; sees improving demand

DENVER (AP) — Alcoa Inc. said Monday that it narrowed its first-quarter loss as demand for some aluminum products picked up and prices improved.

For the quarter that ended March 31, Alcoa reported a net loss of $201 million or 20 cents per share.

That compared with a net loss of $497 million, or 61 cents a share, a year ago, when the company was struggling with the impact of the recession.

Alcoa's most recent results include $295 million, or 29 cents a share, in one-time charges related to the health care reform law and the closing of two smelters.

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Bailout details ease Greek borrowing costs

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A European agreement on the details of a financial lifeline for Greece — should the heavily indebted country need it — won early market support Monday, with Athens' borrowing costs falling as fears of default eased.

Although the package is ready if Greece asks for it, Athens insists it still hopes not to use it and prefers to borrow on the international bond market. Finance Ministry officials say they will wait to gauge market reaction in the coming days and weeks before deciding whether to tap the bailout plan.

Prime Minister George Papandreou, who was in Cyprus on an official visit, said the mechanism would provide assurance for jittery markets.

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Panel not ready to say when recession ended

WASHINGTON (AP) — A panel of academics that date the beginnings and ends of recessions isn't ready to declare just yet when this downturn ended.

The National Bureau of Economic Research said Monday that although most barometers show improvements in the economy, it would be "premature" to pinpoint the end of a recession based on economic data seen so far.

That assessment came after the group of academic economists met at its Cambridge, Mass., headquarters on Thursday to review mountains of economic data.

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Treasury announces additional bank warrant sales

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department says it has authorized another six auctions of bank warrants over the next six weeks to recoup taxpayer money from the controversial financial bailout program.

The Treasury said Monday the institutions involved include Wells Fargo & Co., PNC Financial Group Inc., Comerica Inc. and three other banks.

Warrants are financial instruments that allow the holder to buy stock in the future at a fixed price. The government received the warrants as compensation for support provided from the $700 billion bailout fund.

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GMAC to sell European mortgage business

NEW YORK (AP) — GMAC Financial Services said Monday it struck a deal to sell its European mortgage operations to a New York asset management firm, bringing it closer to its goal of withdrawing from the home lending business.

GMAC said the assets it is selling represent about 10 percent of troubled mortgage subsidiary Residential Capital LLC as of Dec. 31, though they represent much more under new accounting rules that took effect in January.

GMAC, based in Detroit, has been trying to shed its money-losing mortgage business and focus on automotive financing. GMAC's mortgage operations lost $4 billion in the fourth quarter.

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Banga to take top post at MasterCard

PURCHASE, N.Y. (AP) — MasterCard said its president and chief operating officer will take over the company's top job and announced Monday that CEO Robert W. Selander will retire at the end of the year.

Ajay Banga, 50, becomes CEO in July.

During a press conference Monday, Banga said his focus will be on MasterCard's global growth. MasterCard, based in Purchase, N.Y., generates 55 percent of its revenue outside of the U.S.

He said by emphasizing local markets, the payments processor can take advantage of its worldwide reach.

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ConocoPhillips sells stake in Syncrude

NEW YORK (AP) — ConocoPhillips said Monday it will sell its interest in Canadian oil sands producer Syncrude to a Chinese petroleum company for $4.65 billion.

The deal is part of ConocoPhillips' plans to sell about $10 billion in assets by 2011, and continues a trend of Chinese companies buying international energy properties to feed a growing need for fuel at home.

The Houston oil company said subsidiaries of Sinopec International Petroleum Exploration and Production Co. have agreed to buy its 9.03 percent stake in Syncrude.

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Key Fed unit to get a new chief

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Federal Reserve division that helps shape interest-rate policy is getting a new chief.

Fed official William English will be promoted to director of the division of monetary affairs on July 23, the central bank announced on Monday. He will succeed Brian Madigan, a seasoned veteran of the Fed. Madigan plans to retire later this year, after more than 30 years of service, including three years as head of the influential division.

In his new job, English will advise Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, members of the Federal Reserve Board in Washington and members of the Fed's chief policymaking group, called the Federal Open Market Committee, on interest-rate policy.

By The Associated Press

the Dow rose 8.62, or 0.1 percent, to 11,005.97.

The S&P 500 index rose 2.11, or 0.2 percent, to 1,196.48. The Nasdaq composite index rose 3.82, or 0.2 percent, to 2,457.87.

Benchmark crude for May delivery lost 58 cents to settle at $84.34 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier prices extended to $85.44.

In other Nymex trading in May contracts, heating oil lost 0.7 cent to settle at $2.2189 a gallon, and gasoline picked up 0.65 cent to settle at $2.2958 a gallon. Natural gas fell 6.2 cents to settle at $4.008 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude fell 6 cents to settle at $84.77 on the ICE futures exchange.