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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 13, 2010

BUSINESS BRIEFS
U.S. trade deficit at 10-month high; exports also up


Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The U.S. reported its trade deficit jumped to the highest level in 10 months as an improving U.S. economy pushed up demand for imports. However, exports rose as well.

ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO | January 2010

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WASHINGTON The U.S. trade deficit jumped to the highest level in 10 months as an improving U.S. economy pushed up demand for imports. However, exports rose as well, boosted by a weaker dollar, supporting the view that American manufacturers will be helped by a rebounding global economy.

The Commerce Department reported yesterday that the trade deficit jumped 9.7 percent to $36.4 billion in November, a bigger imbalance than the $34.5 billion deficit economists had forecast.

Exports rose 0.9 percent, the seventh consecutive gain, as demand was up for American-made autos, farm products and industrial machinery. Imports, however, rose a much faster 2.6 percent, led by a 7.3 percent rise in petroleum imports.

CHINA TRIES TO SLOW BOOMING ECONOMY

BEIJING While the rest of the world is trying to recover from recession, China is trying to slow its economy down.

Beijing took steps yesterday to curb the kinds of high-risk loans that can create housing bubbles, as happened in the United States. It ordered banks to set aside more reserves, and its central bank raised interest rates on one-year bills.

China, which was also hit by the worldwide downturn but has bounced back fast, hopes cooling the pace of lending will keep its economy growing without creating inflation and overheating. Other nations will be watching: They're counting on a healthy Chinese economy and a steady stream of demand for their goods.

PICKENS RETHINKS WIND-POWER PLANS

DALLAS T. Boone Pickens cut his massive order for wind turbines from General Electric in half.

The energy investor, who made wind power a key part of his plan to wean Americans off of foreign oil, said yesterday that he will now take delivery of 300 turbines.

He said he will use the turbines for wind farms in Canada and Minnesota. Pickens said none of the turbines will go to the Texas Panhandle, where he originally planned to use all of the windmills for the world's largest wind farm. Pickens said Texas will still lack transmission lines to carry the power when he begins to take delivery of the turbines in 2011.

He said part of the reason wind has become less important to him is the drop in natural gas prices.

15 MORTGAGE FIRMS UNDER HUD REVIEW

CHICAGO The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said yesterday it's taking a closer look at 15 mortgage companies to determine why they had such high rates of problems with FHA-insured mortgages.

Those 15 companies were served subpoenas yesterday, demanding documents and data related to failed loans that resulted in claims paid out by the Federal Housing Administration's mortgage insurance fund, HUD Inspector General Kenneth M. Donohue and FHA Commissioner David H. Stevens said.

As the financial crisis crippled conventional lending, the FHA has expanded its role in the mortgage market. Where three years ago it held only about 3 percent of the market, it now accounts for as much as 25 percent of all mortgage activity.