Monday AM January 28th, 2008

Bipartisan economic stimulus package could help housing market...Homeowners refinancing mortgages after last week's surprise rate cut by Federal Reserve...Job search book enters 22nd year of publication...

A key component of the tentative economic stimulus package could give a much needed boost to higher-priced housing markets. The package agreed upon by Democratic and Republican members of the House would allow government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy mortgages up to 75 percent more expensive than the current $417,000 limit. The Senate and White House still must sign off on the proposed stimulus plan, which also includes tax rebates for Americans. Raising the limit on so-called conforming loans will allow a larger pool of borrowers to find lower rates when buying a new home or refinancing an existing mortgage. The higher cap, to be effective until the end of December, would breathe life into housing markets in New York, California and other pricey areas because lenders would feel more comfortable knowing Fannie and Freddie can buy and package the loans into securities that investors consider to be relatively safe. Fannie and Freddie would be allowed to purchase loans up to $730,000, though that limit would differ based on the median home price in a particular metropolitan area. The same limits would also apply for loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, which insures loans made to borrowers with poor credit, though the change would be permanent for FHA-backed loans, which had been capped at $367,000.


Homeowners across the country are rushing to refinance mortgages at lower rates thanks to last week's surprise rate cut by the Federal Reserve. And the Fed has signaled it might think about more rate cuts which could send mortgage rates still lower. The Fed's move was in response to economic concerns, but those worries and credit market developments have also been pushing mortgage rates lower. And that seems to have set off a light bulb for many homeowners regarding their home loans. The rush to refinance could get another boost from the government's tentative economic stimulus package worked out by Congress and the White House. According to bankrate.com, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages now have an average interest rate of 5.57 percent, down from 5.75 percent last week and 6.32 percent a year ago. That's also near the historic low of 5.21 percent set in June 2003.


Knock 'em Dead 2008The book Knock ‘em Dead 2008: The Ultimate Job Search Guide is now in its 22nd year of publication. Author Martin Yate says the dramatic shift to the Internet demands new job search techniques.

"There's always changes in the needs of job seekers and there's always changes, especially in this time span because of technology in the way that we can execute a job search. There other thing is that the book is published in many, many languages around the world, and with the advent of the Internet, I get inundated with emails from readers almost every day of the week, so I'm in complete tune with what people are facing in their job search." Ed: "Things have got to be slightly different from country to country, I mean, you know, we're all in the new technology and so on, but are there differences for, let's say your British readers or Australian readers?" "There are differences, and I'm just writing a new introduction to the Lithuanian edition, and although there are national differences, when it comes to business there are far more commonalities and it's as simple as this, Ed, and this is why the book works all over the world: all companies are in business to make a profit. No one's added to the payroll for the love of mankind. Everyone's added to the payroll to solve problems, to anticipate problems, to prevent problems, to turn problems into opportunities. If we recognize these commonalities, we can see how an approach to job search and career management is going to work regardless of the culture."

Job searches, whether through traditional channels or over the Internet, still require a good resume.

"Usually, we think, 'gee, gotta get a new job, must update the old resume,' and we add what we think we did in the last job that's relevant. All we need to do to do well in these data base searches on the Internet is as follows: before you update your resume, go out there and find half a dozen job postings of jobs that you feel you can do, that you can make a good argument for on paper, make a good argument for in person. And therefore once you hit the ground running on the new job, you won't trip over your shoelaces. In other words, a job you can do. And then tear apart those six job postings which you can do, and pull out the words and phrases which employers are typically using to describe this job and put them on a document on your desktop. And then use that as a focal point. That's what employers are going to look for when they do the database searches. Now we look back into our work history and write a resume that tells what we have done and we make sure that we use those relevant key words which employers are going to use when they do the database search. And that will help our resume perform well."

The book includes preparation for answering the toughest interview questions and negotiating the best salary and benefits package.


The union for Continental Airlines pilots says its preparing to look out for workers' interest in case the Houston-based carrier merges with another airline. Tom Donaldson is chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association at Continental. He said that his members would be happy if the Houston-based airline remains as is, but it can't ignore the speculation about mergers. "We will not stand idly by and allow a change in the airline landscape without taking steps to protect the interests of our pilots,'' Donaldson said. "We've made huge concessions over the past number of years.'' Donaldson said his union expected management to cooperate with it in any merger decisions. Some analysts believe Continental could be forced to look for a takeover target if a larger competitor like Delta succeeds in buying Northwest or United Airlines. A big complication when one airline buys another is merging two sets of work groups in a heavily unionized industry. Rival unions have fought over seniority in past deals.


Developers wanting to produce natural gas have notified North Dakota regulators of their plans to build a $1.4 billion factory and coal mine. Houston-based Great Northern Power Development this week sent a letter of intent to the North Dakota Public Service Commission. Great Northern Power's chief executive officer, Chuck Kerr, first announced plans in November to build the project near South Heart, North Dakota. The project was first envisioned in 2001 as a coal-fired power plant, capable of generating 500 megawatts. About three years ago, company officials began looking at making it a coal-to-gas plant. Great Northern wants to begin construction in December 2009, and have the plant operating within three years. Great Northern has formed a separate company, South Heart Coal, to develop the project.


Bill Gates' Foundation will give out $306 million to fund green technology and farming techniques in hopes of lifting millions out of hunger and poverty. The announcement came at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Gates says the grant is important because three-quarters of the world's poorest people are farmers. Gates will step down as Microsoft chairman this year and is expected to focus more on philanthropy. Meanwhile, leaders at the conference remain concerned about the possibility of a global economic downturn. India's finance minister says a slowdown in the economy is "a precursor to a recession'' and adds that it's "especially worrying to developing countries like India.''


Two more studios have signed interim agreements with the Writers Guild of America: Lionsgate and Marvel Studios. The WGA says the Lionsgate agreement is similar to deals writers recently announced with David Letterman's Worldwide Pants, Tom Cruise's United Artists,'' plus Spyglass Entertainment, Weinstein Company and other small producers. The guild isn't revealing anything about its agreement with Marvel studios. Writers have been on strike since November 5th. Informal talks started up this week with studio bosses to reach a contract agreement. Lionsgate's newest film is "Rambo,'' which opens tomorrow. Marvel Studios has two live-action movies coming out this summer: "Iron Man'' and "The Incredible Hulk.''


The American owners of Liverpool's soccer club has completed a $682 million refinancing. That keeps the English Premier League club in the hands of Tom Hicks of Dallas and George Gillett, Jr., of Vail, Colorado, despite a growing backlash from fans. Hicks also expressed "continuing and enthusiastic support'' for manager Rafa Benitez. The Spaniard's position has been in doubt after disputes with Hicks and Gillett over player transfers. The money package was reached with the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia Bank. That replaces a previous financing arrangement that was due to expire next month. The new deal is expected to help Hicks and Gillett repay the money borrowed for their $431 million takeover of the Liverpool club last March. The refinancing deal and a revised design for Liverpool's new stadium were announced by Kop Football. That's the holding company led by Hicks and Gillett. A Kop statement says the refinancing package will "meet all of the club's current financial needs.'' It says the deal "includes facilities to support the commencement of the new stadium'' and provide funds for future player transfers.


Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...