Judge: 3 counties to share tax
MONTGOMERY — Blount, DeKalb and Cullman counties could share more than $1 million as a result of a Montgomery County judge’s ruling involving an Alabama beer tax.
Circuit Judge Tracy McCooey ruled that dry counties with legally wet country clubs should share in a beer tax that goes to counties with legal alcohol sales. She also ruled the three counties were due back taxes.
Attorney Stan Glasscox, who represented two legislators in the litigation, said McCooey’s ruling should result in the payment of more than $1 million in back taxes, which would be divided equally among the three counties.
Bob Hill, attorney for the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, said the state will probably appeal the judge’s ruling to the state Supreme Court because the board has already distributed all the tax revenue that it has collected.
Countrywide loses; shares rise
LOS ANGELES — Countrywide Financial Corp. lost $1.2 billion in the third quarter, but its shares soared Friday after the nation’s largest mortgage lender said it expects to be profitable this quarter and next year.
It was Countrywide’s first quarterly loss in 25 years.
But the Calabasas, Calif.-based company said it will be profitable in the fourth quarter and in 2008, as it restructures its business to take advantage of the current market.
Shares jumped $4.23, or 32.4 percent, to close at $17.30 on Friday after rising as high as $17.51. The stock is down 64 percent from its 52-week high of $45.26.
The loss for the third-quarter came as mortgage market woes forced Countrywide to set aside millions in loan-loss provisions and writedowns, and the lender originated fewer loans.
Market closes week strong
NEW YORK — Wall Street closed an erratic week with strong gains on Friday as strong earnings from Microsoft Corp. and an optimistic outlook from Countrywide Financial Corp. outweighed investor concerns about the economy.
Housing market news over the week was glum; oil prices surged to record highs. And though corporate earnings have so far been mixed, investors have been heartened by good news for individual companies.
Friday’s report from Countrywide that it expects to return to profitability soon, despite a big third-quarter loss, gave investors hope that the problems in the housing market are contained and that U.S. consumers still have spending power. Thursday night’s strong report from Microsoft inspired strong buying throughout the technology sector.
Mixed profit reports and data showing economic weakness has made investors uncertain whether the market is overvalued. However, earnings will be pushed aside next week as the main
focus of investor attention — and taking it place will be the Federal Reserve’s rate-setting meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Worries push crude futures up
NEW YORK — Crude futures rose to record levels on Friday, supported by worries over political tensions in the Middle East where the U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran and Turkish troops remained massed at the Iraq board to counter Kurdish rebels.
In addition, the market was unsettled by a dawn attack on an oil vessel off the coast of Nigeria by anti-government militants and suggestions that OPEC oil shipments are not rising as quickly as expected.
While rising more than $1, crude futures retreated from an earlier all time high above $92 as investors sold to lock in profits from the latest multi-day record-setting rally.
Oil futures have risen nearly $7 a barrel, or 8 percent, since the government on Wednesday
reported a sharp drop in crude inventories in the United States. The inventory numbers reinforced a view that oil supplies are falling at a time of year when they should be rising to meet expected strong fourth-quarter demand.
Wendy’s: Changes paying off
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Wendy’s International Inc. said changes at its restaurants are paying off, but that a decision about the possible sale of the nation’s third-largest hamburger chain is taking longer than expected.
Wendy’s reported its third-quarter earnings fell 57 percent from a year ago, before it spun off the Tim Hortons. But its results easily beat Wall Street estimates, helped by improving margins and cost controls.
Wendy’s said it made $29.9 million, or 34 cents a share, for the quarter ended Sept. 30 compared with earnings $69.2 million, or 58 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue was about flat at $631.1 million versus $630.1 million in the year-ago quarter.
Debt-rating agencies under fire
HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut’s attorney general said Friday that he has subpoenaed the nation’s three largest debt-rating agencies as part of an investigation into possible anticompetitive practices.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal confirmed that his office issued subpoenas Oct. 10 to Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investor Services and Fitch Ratings Service.
The investigation focuses on whether the credit-rating agencies are using their dominant position to unfairly raise prices or exclude competitors in violation of Connecticut’s antitrust laws, he said.
Standard & Poor’s referred questions to parent company McGraw-Hill Cos., which disclosed the subpoena in its third-quarter report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Blumenthal said Friday his investigation is reviewing allegations that some companies rated an issuer’s debt against its wishes, then ordered the issuer to pay for the service or face a possible poor rating.
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