$6.3B spent on loan relief
LOS ANGELES — Five of the biggest U.S. banks have cut struggling homeowners' mortgage balances by $6.3 billion, part of a total $26.1 billion in home loan relief provided under a landmark settlement over foreclosure abuses. More than 309,000 borrowers received some form of mortgage relief between March 1 and Sept. 30, according to a report issued Monday by Joseph Smith, monitor of the settlement. That translates to roughly $84,385 per homeowner, according to the report, which is based on mortgage servicers' own accounts of their progress as they move to comply with the settlement terms.
Credit card debt rises
LOS ANGELES — Americans cranked up their use of credit cards in the third quarter, racking up more debt than a year ago, while also being less diligent about making payments on time, an analysis of consumer-credit data shows. The average credit card debt per borrower in the U.S. grew 4.9 percent in the July-to-September period from a year earlier to $4,996, credit reporting agency TransUnion said Monday. At the same time, the rate of credit card payments at least 90 days overdue hit 0.75 percent, up from 0.71 percent in the third quarter of last year, the firm said. While higher, the late payment rate is rising from historically low levels. The lowest late payment rate on TransUnion records going back to the mid-1990s was 0.56 percent, set in the third quarter of 1994.
Oil closes at $89 a barrel
NEW YORK — The price of oil closed above $89 a barrel, at its highest point in nearly a month Monday on rising concerns about the Middle East and less worry about the U.S. “fiscal cliff.” President Barack Obama and leaders of the House and Senate appeared to have constructive discussions Friday to avoid a series of automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to kick in on Jan. 1 in the absence of government action. Economists have been warning of dire consequences if no action is taken, including the possibility of another recession. Overseas the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas raised concerns about Middle East crude supplies. Analysts say supplies could be disrupted if the conflict engulfs countries elsewhere in the Middle East, which produces more than a third of the world's oil.
BP charges may be last
NEW ORLEANS — The manslaughter charges brought against two relatively low-ranking BP rig workers in the deadly Gulf of Mexico disaster may be as far as federal prosecutors are willing to go. Or maybe they intend to use the two men to work their way up the corporate ladder. The Justice Department has said only that its criminal investigation is still going on. A federal indictment unsealed last week charged BP rig supervisors Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine with botching a crucial safety test before the 2010 drilling-platform explosion that killed 11 workers and triggered the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Ford plans 3-cylinder car
DEARBORN, Mich. — Ford is bringing its smallest engine to the U.S. in the race to meet stricter government fuel economy rules. The company says the 2014 Fiesta will be the first North American vehicle to get Ford's new 1-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine when it goes on sale next year. The 1-liter has been sold in the European version of the Focus sedan since March. Ford isn't releasing fuel economy numbers yet, but says the 1-liter Fiesta will be the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid available in the U.S. It should get well over 40 miles per gallon. Ford plans to show a Fiesta with the new engine at the Los Angeles Auto Show later this month.
GM opens Chinese plant
HONG KONG — General Motors Co. and its local Chinese partners have launched a second plant to make cars for its local discount brand Baojun, ratcheting up the battle for customers at the fast-growing lower end of the world's biggest auto market. The SAIC-GM-Wuling joint venture opened the factory on Sunday in southwestern Guangxi province. GM and its partners have invested 8 billion yuan ($1.3 billion) in the facility, which will be capable of turning out up to 400,000 vehicles a year. The joint venture is also building a powertrain factory at the plant that will produce up to 400,000 engines a year. It's scheduled to open in September. The first car to roll off the plant's production line was a Baojun 630 midsize sedan, one of two cars sold under the only-in-China badge. The 630 sells for about 10,100 while the Le Chi mini car goes for about 40,000 yuan ($6,400).
From Wire Reports