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Feb. 10, 2009 at 11:30 AM
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U.S. markets waiting for rescue plans

NEW YORK, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. markets were mixed Tuesday morning, as investors waited for word from the Treasury on a rescue plan for the nation's tail-spinning financial systems.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner unveiled the plan in Washington.

In midmorning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 40.14 points, or 0.49 percent, to 8,230.73. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 0.49 percent, 4.26 points, to 865.63. The Nasdaq composite index gained 2.14 points, 0.13 percent, to 1,593.70.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury bond rose 15/32 to yield 2.932 percent.

The euro rose to $1.3027, compared to Monday's $1.3013. Against the Japanese yen, the dollar fell to 91.21 yen, from Monday's 91.44 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei average lost 23.09 points, 0.29 percent, to 7,945.94.

Judge makes Madoff injunctions permanent

NEW YORK, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said a partial judgment in New York begins to cement the case against accused trader Bernard Madoff.

A judgment signed by U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton means Madoff, accused of running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, cannot contest the basic facts of the case against him, the SEC said, USA Today reported Tuesday.

The judgment also changes the status of a temporary freeze of Madoff's assets to a permanent one.

"The fact that his attorneys have consented to anything at this juncture suggests to me that there has been progress in criminal plea bargain discussions," said Columbia University law Professor John Coffee. "Rationally, you do not agree to a consent judgment ... unless there is some quid pro quo," Coffee said.

The judgment doesn't include an admission of guilt nor does it affect the federal prosecution of the case. But, it allows the SEC to move forward, said former U.S. Justice Department official Joshua Hochberg.

"Now they can let the criminal prosecutors handle the tougher task of finding out if there were co-conspirators and where the money went," Hochberg told USA Today.

Auto dealers see survival as the goal

DETROIT, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- A severe slump in automobile sales is likely to push 900 U.S. auto dealerships out of business in 2009, a trade association said.

The National Automobile Dealers Association predicted the number of dealerships will decline further than the 760 dealerships lost in 2008, USA Today reported Tuesday.

There are an estimated 16,000 to 20,000 U.S. dealerships and not enough sales to support them all, the newspaper said.

In 2008, sales fell 18 percent from a year ago to 13.2 million vehicles, the worst year since 1992. Sales this year are projected to fall to 10.5 million, the newspaper said.

The numbers tell the tale. Domestic sales peaked at 80 percent of all U.S. sales in 1984. Currently, the market share commanded by General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler LLC is about 50 percent of the U.S. market.

At the same time, dealership profits have dropped in half to about 3 percent of each sale, GM, Lexus and Infiniti dealership owner Carl Sewell told USA Today.

"We simply can't keep doing business that way," Sewell said.

For 2009, "the whole goal is to be here a year from now," AutoNation Chief Executive Officer Mike Jackson said to the newspaper.

Cabinet member sees gloom in Britain

LONDON, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- A close confidant of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the global recession was evolving into the worst downturn in 100 years.

"I think this is a financial crisis more extreme and more serious than that of the 1930s," said Ed Balls, Britain's secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, The Times of London reported Tuesday.

"The reality is that this is becoming the most serious global recession for, I'm sure, over 100 years as it will turn out," he said.

The comment from an official as high ranking as a British Cabinet member stirred response from opposition party members.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said the comments were "a very worrying admission from a Cabinet minister," The Times said.

"We are being told (the downturn) will last for over a decade, far longer than Treasury forecasts predict,'' he said.

Liberal Democrats' Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said "government ministers are oscillating between complacent optimism and this doom-laden picture of Armageddon."

"Surely, the truth lies between the two," he told The Times.

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