Business Notes


Couple seeking class-action status for suit against Countrywide

A New Jersey couple is suing Countrywide Financial Corp. and two other people, claiming that the company allowed a security breach involving detailed financial information from more than two million customers. Matthew and Danielle Holmes of Mount Holly, N.J., want a judge to grant class-action status to claims that an employee of the mortgage giant stole detailed financial information from customers and sold it to another person, who then sold it to an unknown number of companies. The suit filed Thursday in federal court in Paducah is one of more than 30 filed nationally. All the suits have been transferred to Kentucky, where U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell of Paducah will oversee the cases. The Holmes' attorney, Donald Haviland Jr. of Philadelphia, said Countrywide Financial had all his client's financial information including mortgage information, credit card and Social Security numbers and birth dates. Haviland said the breach has the potential to wreck their finances.


Average mortgage rates lowest in 37 years

Rates on 30-year-fixed mortgages dropped this week to their lowest levels in at least 37 years, as the Federal Reserve pledged to pour money into the mortgage market to spur the moribund U.S. housing market. Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, reported Thursday that average rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped to 5.19 percent, down from the year's previous low of 5.47 percent, set last week. The rate is the lowest since Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate survey began in April 1971.

Caffeine to be left out of alcoholic drink

MillerCoors LLC announced Thursday it will remove caffeine and three other ingredients from its Sparks alcoholic energy drink in a deal with 13 states and the city of San Francisco, who had contended the drink targeted young drinkers. A coalition of state attorneys general had complained the stimulants reduced drinkers' sense of intoxication and were marketed to young drinkers, who were already more likely to have risky behaviors in driving and other activities. Kentucky was not among the 13 states.

Caterpillar to lay off assembly workers

Construction equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. says it will lay off 814 employees at its engine assembly facility in Mossville, Ill. Caterpillar says volumes at the facility have dropped sharply in recent months because of reduced demand for on-highway truck engines, engines for Caterpillar machines and commercial engine applications. The company says the employees, who are involved in production, were notified of the decision Thursday. It says the layoffs will begin Feb. 23.

Economy declines to 1991 level

A private research group's measure of the economy's health fell again in November and its six-month rate of decline hit the worst level since 1991. The New York-based Conference Board on Thursday said its index of leading economic indicators fell for the second straight month, dropping 0.4 percent in November. That was slightly better than the 0.5 percent decline economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected. The index is designed to forecast economic activity in the next three to six months based on 10 economic components, including stock prices, building permits and initial claims for unemployment benefits.

GM to launch 2010 Chevy crossover

General Motors Corp. said Thursday it will roll out its 2010 Chevrolet Equinox crossover with a direct-injection engine that gets an estimated 30 highway miles per gallon, as the troubled automaker pushes to entice consumers with more fuel-efficient vehicles. GM said the 2010 Equinox, which reaches dealerships next summer, will come with the option of the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Buyers who want more power can choose a direct-injection, 3.0-liter V-6 that gets an estimated 25 mpg on the highway. GM has not released pricing on either version. The 2009 Equinox, which went on sale this summer and is offered solely with a 3.4-liter six-cylinder engine, gets 24 miles per gallon on the highway, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Certification for the 2010 model's fuel economy is still pending from the EPA, GM said.

Compiled from Staff, wire reports