Kit Menkin's Leasing News
www.leasingnews.org Monday,June 24, 2002
Accurate, fair and unbiased news for the equipment Leasing Industry
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Headlines----

---$200 Million Fraud Charge---RW Professional—Four Are Arrested by FBI
    Federated Capital Corporation of Farmington Hills, MI.
        American Express Business Finance Medical Exodus?
            Tech firms push back estimates for recovery
                High-Speed Internet Demand Growing--Only 21% Hi Speed
                    Scandals, Profit Worries Send Stocks Near 9/11 Lows Last Week
                The Week Ahead June 24-28, 2002--Economic Indicators
            CIT To Redeem CIT Exchangeco Shares--Gamper Haiku
        Jim Coston on Amtrak
    Bailout to Amtrak Uncertain
Mineta to Push for Amtrak to Stay Open
    U.S. Says Banks' Earnings Are Up 18.6%
        Mortgage interest rates fall again
            Plan ahead for new postage rates, 37-cent stamps available now

        Tomorrow----Leasing News List Up-Dated
    This Week---Exclusive---
    ---Special download/Full Report on PinnFund

(reads like a Jacqueline Susann novel).
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RW Professional—Four Are Arrested

40 FBI agents raided the offices and arrested Barry and Rochelle, Roger and Jennifer Drayer. The investigation found $6.5 Million of fraud against R.W. Professional Leasing.

Leasing News has been writing about this company for over a year, with many, many complaints from community banks, lessees, and a leasing company who used to work with this company. We have had depositions taken in this matter, and for the sake of this action, have remained silent. We knew it was coming, but did not know when.

Fraud Charges for Executives at Long Island Firm

By BRUCE LAMBERT New York Times

SLAND PARK, N.Y., — Forty federal agents raided the small headquarters of a company that leases medical equipment and arrested its top officers today for what prosecutors described as nationwide bank frauds that could total $200 million.

Just 10 days of investigation into a small part of the company's dealings found $6.5 million of fraud, prosecutors said in United States District Court in Central Islip, where three suspects were arraigned. A fourth was arraigned in Boston.

Prosecutors said that the company, the RW Professional Leasing Corporation, concocted elaborate schemes using up to 100 rented mailboxes as far away as California to send phony checks, sham invoices, bogus leases and other false documents to banks in various states. Based on those documents, the banks lent RW millions of dollars to buy equipment and lease it out, prosecutors said.

The schemes included multiple loans from different banks for the same medical equipment and loans for equipment that was never bought or leased, prosecutors said.

Those arrested were RW's president and co-owner, Rochelle Besser, also known as Rochelle Drayer, 66, of Long Beach; her brother, RW's senior vice president, Barry Drayer, 62, who operated a branch in Wellesley, Mass.; another brother, Roger Drayer, 59, of Long Beach, who holds various titles; and Roger Drayer's daughter, Jennifer Tarantino, also known as Jennifer Drayer, 31, of Oceanside.

(Leasing News will have more on what lead up to this scandal tomorrow.Editor)

[Headlines]

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Federated Capital Corporation of Farmington Hills, MI.

www.federatedcapital.com.
"....layoffs at Federated. They began on Thursday and there's a chance that they are not completed yet."

Name With Held

Ex-Federated Capital owner wins $8.3m judgment

By Robert Ankeny Crains Detroitnews.com

• March 25, 2002

An Ann Arbor businessman was awarded $8.3 million in Oakland County Circuit Court in a dispute over loans he made to an international trading company after selling his 22-year-old equipment-leasing business.

Louis Ferris Jr., who founded Federated Capital Corp. in Farmington Hills in 1974, sold the company to Nissho Iwai American Corp. in December 1996 for a reported $35 million. Federated leases items such as medical equipment and commercial vehicles such as buses. NIAC is the U.S. subsidiary of the Japanese corporation Nissho Iwai.

Under terms of the sale, Ferris continued to serve as president and CEO until financial disputes arose in 2000, said his lawyer, Rodger Young of Young & Susser P.C. in Southfield.

According to court documents, NIAC borrowed back from Ferris more than $11 million, repaying about $5 million. When promissory notes for loans came due July 1, 2000, NIAC asked for and received two one-month extensions, then refused to pay the principal or interest on the notes when they came due Aug. 28, 2000.

Ferris sued later that year. NIAC also has sued Ferris in federal and state court in New York City over accounting issues, and those cases are pending.

The Michigan case came to trial March 4, and on March 5 Oakland Circuit Judge Denise Langford-Morris entered a judgment in favor of Ferris for $6.15 million plus $1.09 million in partial interest.

After five days of trial, a jury deliberated about two hours before returning a verdict of $1.04 million in additional interest, costs and attorney fees.

NIAC lawyer Norman Ankers of Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn L.L.P. did not respond to several phone calls for comment.

Robert Ankeny: (313) 446-0404, bankeny@crain.com

[Headlines]

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American Express Business Finance Medical

Only one sales person left Amex to HPSC and one manager. Another one left but did not go to HPSC. What the rest do is up in the air.

Please if you publish this, name withheld. Thanks Kit

[Headlines]

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Tech firms push back estimates for recovery

Many predicting upturn won't come until 2003

Benjamin Pimentel, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer

With many corporate customers still reluctant to open their wallets, technology firms that were banking on a recovery in the second half of 2002 may have to wait a little longer.

Despite all the talk of an economic rebound and earlier projections of a major technology uptick in the second half of this year, spending is not expected to go up significantly until 2003, analysts said.

The sluggish technology investment climate is due mainly to the continuing uncertainty caused by the Sept. 11 attacks and the corporate world's more cautious view of technology, analysts added.

"What tech spending?" quipped analyst Andrew Neff of Bear Stearns. "What people thought would be a second-half recovery is now viewed as a 2003 recovery. Not that people know something -- they just know it's not now."

Major technology firms have echoed that view during the past few weeks. Silicon Valley heavyweights such as Intel, Oracle and Advanced Micro Devices --

all of whom rely heavily on sales to other businesses -- have recently warned Wall Street that their results will fall below expectations.

Nevertheless, many analysts say an economic recovery is on its way, as underscored by the report last week by UCLA Anderson Forecast predicting steady growth this year and in 2003.

But analysts say many companies remain cautious.

"Economists say we're in a recovery," said Andrew Bartels, a research leader at Giga Information Group. "CEOs, on the other hand, are much gloomier. CEOs have been sending out strong signals to employees to keep the lid on costs: 'Don't spend, because if our gut feel is right that there is not much of a recovery, we want to be sure to keep our costs down.' "

Business investment in technology in the first quarter was down 11 percent from last year, according to Giga, citing U.S. Department of Commerce figures.

Giga projects this year's technology spending to be flat compared with last year. Another technology research firm, Gartner Inc., is estimating growth of 1.5 percent.

In a recent Giga survey of chief information officers, almost a quarter said their information technology budgets have shrunk since January, while less than a fifth reported they had gone up. More than half said their budgets had not changed.

Ajay Chopra, president of Pinnacle Systems Inc., a maker of video editing and special-effects equipment in Mountain View, said his company deferred two major IT projects to the latter part of 2002, citing "uncertainty in the outlook."

"We weren't quite sure whether our business would grow, so we cut back," he said.

Jeremy Grigg, a research director at Gartner Inc., noted a "backlog of (technology) projects waiting to start."

"What we saw was a freeze on capital projects," he said.

Even CIOs with money to spend on technology are under pressure to make every dollar count.

Brian Kilcourse, CIO of Longs Drug Stores Corp. in Walnut Creek, said his budget increased as part of a continuing program to upgrade the company's information technology system.

But he said "there has been increasing pressure on us to be mindful of our earnings per share," by delivering results from the technology investment as soon as possible.

"If you're engaging in a three-year project and you don't foresee any benefit for two years, that's a hard sell," Kilcourse said.

Kaiser Permanente is also in the process of beefing up its IT infrastructure, but the Oakland health care company is also paying closer attention to the bottom line, said Claire Holmes, the HMO's director of communications in information technology.

"We're not running and buying all kinds of stuff," she said.

That's true about many companies, especially those that got caught up in the free-spending days of the technology boom of the late 1990s, analysts say.

"In certain cases, CEOs bought the line that technology is the salvation of the company, under the expectation that this is going to pay off big-time for us," said Bartels of Giga. "Now there is technology disenchantment."

"We saw ourselves as visionary, the oracle that came down from the hill with a bag of technology goodies," said Grigg of Gartner. "Can't do that anymore. No one buys that."

Still, while companies have grown more prudent about spending money on such things as servers and routers, technology is still viewed as one of the keys to competitiveness and efficiency.

Gary Beach, group publisher of CIO Magazine, said his company's surveys found that while big corporations are holding back, smaller companies, those with fewer than 1,000 employees, are beginning to spend more on technology.

"There is a recovery in IT spending in companies that have fewer employees, " he said. "Unfortunately, they don't have as many zeros in their budgets, so the tech industry isn't seeing this in their revenue lines yet."

Chopra of Pinnacle Systems, which has about 800 employees, said his company is getting back on track on two major technology projects worth about $700,000.

Beach said that "after two consecutive years of repressed IT budgets," big corporations will probably begin spending again.

Griggs cited the decision of many corporations to hang on to their desktop PCs instead of replacing them roughly every three years.

But these companies will eventually have to replace their aging PCs, as new technology, particularly software, emerges.

"Many organizations in the last 18 months have said, 'We need to get a fourth year out of this,' " he said. "You can do it for four years. But you can't for five years."

Most analysts agree that the worst is over for the IT industry and that spending will be in full swing by early next year.

"What I'm seeing is the concept that the darkest night is just before the dawn," Beach said. "I think we're at about 4 a.m."

E-mail Benjamin Pimentel at bpimentel@sfchronicle.com

[Headlines]

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Scandals, Profit Worries Send Stocks Near 9/11 Lows Last Week

By Ben White

Washington Post Staff Writer

NEW YORK, -- Shaken by a scandal-du-jour business climate and concerned about the nation's underlying economic strength, investors dumped stocks last week, pushing the major indexes back near lows last touched after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index fell 17.15 points, or 1.7 percent, to close at 989.14, the first time the broad index has ended the trading day below 1000 since Sept. 21. And the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 177.98 points, to 9253.79, the worst close for the blue-chip indicator since Oct. 31.

"We are at maximum pain," said Stephen J. Massocca, president of Pacific Growth Equities in San Francisco. "The dollar is declining, earnings estimates keep getting revised lower, corporate malfeasance and accounting scandals continue to erupt daily and the Middle East is still a tinderbox. All the big issues facing the market are negative."

An upbeat forecast from wireless technology firm Qualcomm Inc. today could not overcome bad news about IBM and Merck and the indictment of three former executives and one current employee of Rite Aid on securities and accounting fraud charges.

The indictments further unnerved investors already spooked by fresh scandals at conglomerate Tyco International and biopharmaceutical firm ImClone Systems.

And they came as the collapse of Enron, recently written off by some observers as old news, sprang back into investors' consciousness this week with the conviction last Saturday of the energy trader's accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, on an obstruction-of-justice charge.

Tepid second-quarter earnings reported by several companies also helped push stocks to their fifth straight down week as investors questioned whether the sluggish economic recovery will ever gain steam or simply putter out.

"People have been waiting for profitability to return for several months now," said Michael Obuchowski, a quantitative research analyst and portfolio manager at Ashland Management, which manages about $2 billion. "But despite lower unemployment numbers and several leading indicators inching higher, not much is happening in terms of profits. . . . And because of all these scandals, people are really waiting for tangible results before they put money back in the market."

For the week, the Dow fell 2.3 percent, the Nasdaq dropped 4.2 percent and the S&P slipped 1.8 percent. Since May 17, the last time the indexes finished up for the week, the Dow and the S&P have each lost 10.6 percent and the Nasdaq has dropped 17.3 percent.

The Dow has had the best year so far of the major indexes and is still 12.4 percent above its Sept. 21 finish of 8235.81. The Nasdaq is just 1.3 percent above its Sept. 21 close, and the S&P has only to drop another 2.4 percent to pierce its September low.

Several academic observers and money managers said that despite recent drops, stocks remain expensive by historic ratios to corporate earnings and could fall even more if scandals continue to pile up and erode investor confidence.

"Something is true today which has been true only now and again in the past," said Harvard Business School professor Richard S. Tedlow. "And that is that there is a spotlight on individuals. You see their pictures in the paper. You see them testifying before congressional committees. They have names. You can understand what they did wrong."

Tedlow said the current market environment felt different from the events leading to the crash of 1987.

"It's hard to recall anyone particularly associated with that," he said. "What's going on now has far more in common with the 1920s and 1930s, when a number of famous people went to jail."

But Tedlow and several money managers cautioned that the underlying economy is far stronger than it was in the days of the Great Depression and that, should earnings finally pick up in the second quarter as many expect they will, stock prices could begin to recover late this year or early next year.

"In general, the economy looks reasonably solid, particularly housing and automobiles," said Scott Kuensell of Delaware-based Brandywine Asset Management, which oversees about $8 billion. "Retail has been slightly disappointing lately but overall it remains relatively strong. We don't have a strong head wind working against us. If we could just get beyond this daily drumbeat of negative news."

James Paulsen, chief investment officer at Wells Capital Management in Minnesota, which oversees $75 billion in assets, said stocks could continue to suffer if investors succumb to what he calls "Fed policy panic" -- fear that the Federal Reserve, which repeatedly lowered interest rates until the economy seemed to gain firmer footing in recent months, will run out of tools to boost the economy and the markets.

[Headlines]

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The Week Ahead June 24-28, 2002

Economic indicators:

June 25 Tuesday

Federal Reserve's Federal Open

Market Committee begins two-day meeting to discuss monetary policy and interest rates.

President Bush leaves Washington for annual summit of leaders from the Group of Eight countries in Kananaskis, Canada.

Economic indicators: Existing-home sales for May, Consumer confidence for June.

June 26 Wednesday

FOMC holds second day of meetings, expected to announce decision on

interest rates at 2:15 p.m.

Ministers of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries meet in Vienna to assess global oil market.

Bush and other G8 leaders hold first day of meetings.

Economic indicators: Durable goods for May, New-home sales for May.

Amtrak deadline.

June 27 Thursday

G8 holds second day of meetings.

Fed releases minutes of FOMC's May 7 meeting.

Economic indicators: Gross domestic product for first quarter.

June 28 Friday

Deadline for airlines to apply for federal loan guarantees.

Economic indicators: Personal income for May, University of Michigan

[Headlines]

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CIT Financial !!!

For ever -- the Eagle yells.

Proud again.

Al Gamper

CIT To Redeem CIT Exchangeco Shares

2

CIT Exchangeco announced the Board of Directors' determination that effective July 5, 2002, the exchangeable shares of CIT Exchangeco Inc. will be redeemed in accordance with their terms.

The CIT Group, Inc. was acquired by a subsidiary of Tyco International Ltd. ("Tyco") in June 2001. One exchangeable share provides economic and voting rights that are substantially equivalent to 0.6907 of a Tyco common share. On April 25, 2002, Tyco announced that it intended to sell its interest in CIT Group Inc. through an initial public offering of its issued and outstanding shares of common stock, and Tyco has subsequently advised CIT Exchangeco Inc. that it expects to complete the offering in early July 2002. Following the initial public offering, Tyco and its affiliates will no longer hold any common stock of CIT Group Inc.

Nova Scotia Company, the direct parent company of CIT Exchangeco Inc., will exercise its call right and purchase the exchangeable shares as of the redemption date. On the redemption date, shareholders will be entitled to receive 0.6907 of a Tyco common share for each exchangeable share held, cash for any fractional share payment plus, on the designated payment date, an amount in cash equal to any declared and unpaid dividends on the exchangeable shares held on any dividend record date which occurred prior to the redemption date.

[Headlines]

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Jim Coston on Amtrak

"BUSH ADMINISTRATION FLUNKED TRANSPORTATION 101," SAYS AMTRAK REFORM COUNCIL MEMBER JAMES E. COSTON

(Mr. Coston is also the secretary-treasurer of the United Association of Equipment

Leasing and has many leasing company clients)

"Ideologically-driven Amtrak Policy Is Being Drafted by Office of Management and Budget, Not Department of Transportation, Passenger Rail Expert Charges

CHICAGO-Dissident Amtrak Reform Council member James E. Coston said today that the Bush administration's plan for Amtrak released June 20 was driven by ideological nostalgia for the days of privately run passenger trains rather than informed concern about the nation's growing needs for personal mobility and economic development.

"The Bush administration just flunked Transportation 101," Coston said. "They've had 18 months in office in which to prepare for their responsibilities, which include building a modern passenger rail system in this country, and they didn't open the textbook until the night before the exam. Now they're trying to finesse their way through a major public-policy challenge without having done their homework..

"You can always tell when public officials are dragged kicking and screaming to face a problem they don't understand," Coston said. "Rather than take a pragmatic look at what needs to be done, they revert to their ideological roots and mumble platitudes. That's what seems to have happened with the administration's so-called 'plan' for Amtrak. They embraced the ideological simplicities of the Amtrak Reform Council and the right-wing think tanks without bothering to brush up on what the Constitution says about the federal government's responsibilities for interstate commerce."

The administration also failed to brush up on the last 80 years of transportation funding in this country, Coston said.

"The transportation-funding formula is that the federal government pays 80 to 90 percent of the cost, depending on whether it's highways or airports," he said. "If good interstate passenger trains are going to run, the federal-state match is going to be in that neighborhood. Anything less would be discriminatory."

Coston said the idea of having the states fund Amtrak is simply "a plan for abandonment."

"The states cannot afford to do it, and there is no constitutional mechanism whereby they can do it. The train running between Chicago and Los Angeles passes through seven states. How are you going to get seven governors and seven legislatures to agree on how much each state owes? There's no convenient way seven states can act together on funding issues, which is why the Constitution assigned the federal government jurisdiction over interstate commerce."

Coston quoted Merrill Travis, former director of the Illinois Bureau of Railroads, on the difficulty of funding multi-state projects without the help of the federal government.

"Merrill used to say, 'It is easier for the federal government to build a coast-to-coast highway than it is for two states to build a bridge across a river between them,'" Coston said. "He was so right. All federal transportation policy is predicated on the 80/20 or 90/10 federal/state funding mix. Giving responsibility for Amtrak to the states is just shorthand for saying, 'Amtrak ain't gonna happen.'"

Coston called the administration's plan "little more than a vague catalogue of ideologically driven talking points being passed off as a public policy."

"The Bush administration's so-called 'plan' is not helpful to the cause of transportation in this country," he said. "It is a threat to the traveling public, a threat to the railroad industry and the rail unions, a threat to the states and a threat to the hundreds of cities that need strong intercity passenger service in order to revive downtown real-estate values that were wrecked by the federally financed Interstate highways and airports."

Coston, 47, who paid his way through Northwestern University and the DePaul University School of Law by working as an Amtrak ticket agent, called the Bush administration's proposal to make the states pay most of Amtrak's costs "a recipe for disaster."

"This so-called 'plan' is of no use to anyone," Coston said. "It has no upside unless you are consumed with balancing an unbalanceable federal budget. It is not a legitimate transportation document. It is an Office of Management and Budget document tricked up in a teddie and garters to look like a transportation document."

[Headlines]

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Bailout to Amtrak Uncertain

From Associated Press

House Speaker Dennis Hastert gave no indication Sunday whether Congress would provide the $200 million bailout Amtrak contends it needs to operate beyond midweek and said some railroad routes should shut down.

He said Amtrak's management must correct what he called money-losing policies before turning to Congress whenever the railroad runs out of cash. Amtrak's new president said he completely agreed.

"I want to change the way we do business," David Gunn said in an interview. "My goal is to turn (Amtrak) into a much more focused organization with tight fiscal controls."

Hastert, R-Ill, did not say if such help would be forthcoming.

"I think there are some places that they could shut down," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I think that there are some selective routes that they may want to shut down. That's all a part of reform."

Gunn said ending the most unprofitable routes "will not solve the immediate problem." He said he agrees "there should be standards set in terms of cost recovery. That's perfectly reasonable, that's fair, and it gets us out of the business of playing God with these routes."

Assuming that Amtrak survives the immediate crisis, Gunn said he would welcome direction from Congress and states about which routes deserve subsidies and which, if any, should die.

Hastert decried a system that he said subsidizes some routes by hundreds of dollars per passenger and continues unproductive routes.

"I think there's going to be some reform in Amtrak," Hastert said. "When you take a train that runs from New Orleans to Los Angeles, and we subsidize each passenger about $350 a person, we could put them in a pretty nice airplane and fly them there."

"I think we need to have some cost effectiveness. I think the costs have gone out of sight on Amtrak," he said.

Hastert acknowledged the semiprivate passenger rail service has instituted programs that are saving money in some areas, "but I think that there are some things that we can do to make Amtrak more effective and more efficient."

[Headlines]

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Mineta to Push for Amtrak to Stay Open

By Don Phillips

Washington Post Staff Writer

Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said Saturday that the Bush administration "is not interested in allowing Amtrak to shut down," and he arranged to meet with the railroad's board tomorrow afternoon to determine what the administration can do to prevent it.

The administration also no longer insists on wholesale "reforms" of Amtrak as part of a rescue, but wants assurances that the passenger- train corporation will impose fiscal discipline and increase the flow of information to the government, administration sources said.

Amtrak President David Gunn has said Amtrak is so low on cash that it will have to begin an "orderly shutdown" and declare bankruptcy when Congress goes into recess, probably Wednesday or Thursday, unless the administration gives it a loan guarantee or Congress grants it $200 million. Amtrak has never made money in its 31-year history and lost about $1.2 billion last year.

A shutdown would end all the country's intercity passenger train service, and would stop or seriously affect most of the country's commuter trains. That includes Virginia Railway Express and most Maryland commuter trains.( It would also affect mail deliveries, plus both consumer and business freight. It is scheduled that independent owner-operators

will be hired to pick up the slack.}

Federal Railroad Administration staff members are working to determine whether the government can legally guarantee a loan under a law intended for long-term capital needs, the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program. Deliberations so far indicate there may be a way to do it, a source said.

Administration sources said Mineta's meeting with the Amtrak board is partly intended to assure the nation that a shutdown almost certainly would not occur, and particularly to reassure commuter railroads that are livid about possibly being caught up in the shutdown.

The sources also said administration officials do not think they received adequate financial information from Amtrak, and want to determine if there are alternatives to loan guarantees or appropriations, including the release of unobligated funds or transferring money from other parts of the budget.

"I think people [in the administration] are focusing on the problem," Gunn said in an interview, adding that Mineta's request for a meeting "sounds positive to me."

Mineta said that even though the administration does not want Amtrak to shut down, "Amtrak must face the reality that difficult decisions need to be made and fundamental management changes need to take place to keep the company alive."

"We want Amtrak to succeed, not merely survive from crisis to crisis," he said.

[Headlines]

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U.S. Says Banks' Earnings Are Up 18.6%

By BLOOMBERG NEWS

WASHINGTON, (Bloomberg News) — The nation's banks have taken advantage of low interest rates and stronger cost controls to increase earnings 18.6 percent in the last year as corporate profits have fallen, federal regulators report.

Net income, or the difference between revenue and loan losses and other expenses, for national banks increased by $2.1 billion, or 18 percent, from the first quarter of last year through the first three months of this year, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said in a report on the condition of the banking industry.

The margin between what banks earn on interest and borrowing costs has increased $5.4 billion, or 18 percent in the last year, the office said.

The overnight bank lending rate, the cost for banks to borrow money from the Federal Reserve, stands at 1.75 percent, a 40-year low, according to the Comptroller of the Currency.

"They're making a lot of money on spreads," said Nancy Wentzler, the office's deputy comptroller of global banking and financial analysis.

"Large banks have managed this environment very successfully," Ms. Wentzler said during a briefing on the condition of the banking industry.

The amount that banks have earned from fees and from other noninterest sources has increased by $1.2 billion, or 4.9 percent during the corresponding period, the agency said.

[Headlines]

Mortgage interest rates fall again

By Boston Globe Staff and Wire Service

Mortgage interest rates dropped this last week, continuing to stay well below their 2001 levels, according to Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage in New England averaged 6.64 percent for the seven days ending Thursday, down from 6.73 one week ago. Last year at this time, the 30-year rate averaged 7.14 percent.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.10 percent, down from 6.18 percent last week. One year ago, it was at 6.67 percent.

Nationally, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.63 percent for the seven days ending Thursday, down from 6.71 last week. A year ago, it was at 7.11 percent

[Headlines]

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Plan ahead for new postage rates, 37-cent stamps available now

(end of this week)

By Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) With higher postage rates set to take effect in two weeks the Postal Service is urging Americans to plan ahead and buy stamps now.

New rates boosting first-class mail 3 cents to 37 cents take effect June 30.

The post office says billions of 37-cent stamps have been shipped to its offices across the country.

Five different non-denominated stamps good for the 37-cent rate went on sale June 7. They are a U.S. flag stamp and a set of four antique toys stamps, depicting a mail wagon, steam locomotive, taxicab and fire engine.

The agency has also a 3-cent ''makeup rate'' stamp featuring a star highlighted in red, white and blue. This stamp allows customers to use up remaining 34-cent stamps they may have on hand.

The stamps also can be purchased online at www.usps.com/shop or by calling toll free 1-800-STAMP-24.

Also issued June 7 were the 23-cent Carlsbad Caverns National Park stamped postal card and a 37-cent stamped envelope showing five strands of red, white and blue ribbon forming a white star in the center of the design.

Denominated versions of the antique toys stamps, all bearing the 37-cent rate, will be issued July 26 in Rochester, N.Y.

Scheduled to be issued later this summer are a 60-cent stamp for two-ounce letters, an 83-cent

[Headlines]

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