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Cemex seeks status

(Bloomberg) -- Cemex SAB wants to regain its status as an investment-grade company after the U.S. housing slump prompted four debt-ratings downgrades and led to 12 straight quarterly losses at the largest cement maker in the Americas.

Cemex's debt soared after it paid $14.2 billion for Rinker Group Ltd. in 2007 to expand in the U.S. amid Chief Executive Officer Lorenzo Zambrano’s two-decade, $29 billion acquisition spree.

The Monterrey, Mexico-based company is rated B- by Standard & Poor's, six steps below investment grade.

Debt reduction will consume “most if not all” of $1.11 billion in expected net proceeds from this month's initial public offering of Cemex’s South and Central American business, said Maher Al-Haffar, Cemex’s investor relations chief.

Total debt plus perpetual notes fell 4 percent to $17.7 billion in the nine months through Sept. 30, Cemex said Oct. 15.

Cemex returned to debt markets for the first time in a year in October, selling $1.5 billion of 10-year notes to yield 9.375 percent.

The company said it would use the proceeds to make required payments under a $7.2 billion refinancing agreement concluded in September, which extended maturities three years to 2017.
Nuclear quake hazards

(AP) -- Recent earthquakes demonstrate the need for the nation's nuclear industry to re-evaluate the geologic hazards facing power plants, a process that has already started, the new chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said this past week.

Nuclear plants in the eastern and central United States will have until the end of 2013 to finish the re-evaluation, she said.

New evaluations for nuclear plants on the West Coast will take until 2015 to complete since they face more varied geologic conditions.

“If a plant is found to be deficient then, yes, it will have to get up to its new design basis,” Macfarlane said.

“I think what this highlights to us -- especially to me as a geologist -- is the importance of paying close attention to earth processes and making sure we properly account for them in ensuring that the plants operate safely,” NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane said.

In March, the NRC instructed power companies to re-evaluate the seismic and flooding hazards that their power plants face.

While such a re-evaluation had been discussed for years, the issue accelerated after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami crippled reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan, leading to multiple meltdowns and radioactive releases.

Later that year, the North Anna nuclear plant in Virgina was struck by an earthquake that caused peak ground movement at twice the level at which the plant was designed. No major damage or complications were reported.
Impairing banks

(Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Governor Elizabeth Duke said pending bank regulations may “seriously” impair mortgage lending by community banks, which play a “significant” role in the market for home loans.

Duke, a former community bank executive, said she and other governors including Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke are concerned about the potential harm from several rules mandated in the Basel III agreement and Dodd-Frank Act.

If rules cause small banks to believe they shouldn't sell mortgages, “it should raise red flags,” and policy makers should weigh whether the benefits of regulation outweigh the costs of reduced lending, Duke said Friday.
Expanding assistance

(AP) -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are expanding their assistance to borrowers whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.

The mortgage organizations said Friday that they will automatically suspend evictions and foreclosures in disaster areas for 90 days.

They also gave servicers more flexibility and independence to suspend payments, provide loan modifications or waive late payment charges for homeowners in these areas.

Fannie Mae (OTC: FNMA) and Freddie Mac (OTC: FMCC) also said they would expedite the distribution of insurance payments on storm claims to help speed up repairs.
Wetlands charge

(AP) -- William R. “Rusty” Miller, a real estate developer from Fairhope, Ala., has been indicted for violating the federal Clean Water Act by illegally filling wetlands near Bay St. Louis, Miss.

The indictment alleges that Miller excavated and filled in wetlands on 1,710 acres of undeveloped property in Hancock County.

The indictment alleges that Miller knew that as much as 80 percent of the land was federally protected wetlands and could not be developed without a permit.

The indictment said Miller allegedly discharged silt, sand, vegetation, debris and other material from the Hancock County property into tributaries of Bayou Marone, a tributary of the Jourdan River.

Miller, if convicted, could be sentenced to up to three years and fined not more than $250,000.
Ninth MGIC loss

(Bloomberg) -- MGIC Investment Corp., the mortgage insurer that breached regulators' capital limits, declined after reporting a ninth-straight loss.

The company said it will pay $267.5 million to resolve a dispute with Freddie Mac.

The Milwaukee-based company has plunged more than 50 percent this year as losses drained capital.

The third-quarter net loss widened to $246.9 million from $165.2 million a year earlier as claims costs rose, MGIC (NYSE: MTG) said.

The results don't include losses from resolving the clash with Freddie Mac over coverage on groups of loans, according to a statement.
Rule rejected

(Bloomberg) -- A Sierra Club lawsuit seeking tougher Environmental Protection Agency standards on emissions associated with gold mines was rejected by a federal appeals court which found the agency properly limited its regulation to mercury pollutants.

A three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled Friday that the EPA wasn't required to set standards for so-called fugitive emissions while developing the “Gold Mine Rule”.

The Sierra Club and Desert Citizens Against Pollution sued the agency last year arguing that the EPA's explanation for failing to set controls on emissions from “tailings ponds, leach fields and waste rock pile” while developing the rule was arbitrary and capricious.
Nonprofit theft

(AP) -- The former executive director of a nonprofit community development organization in Cleveland has been charged with stealing more than $580,000 from the group.

Thomas Newman was charged Thursday in a federal court filing with money laundering and theft and embezzlement involving federal programs.

The criminal information, which usually signals a pending plea deal, said the 65-year-old Newman made personal use of Flats Oxbow Association funds.

The association closed last year when investigators began checking into financial irregularities.

The association obtained federal funds to promote development in the riverfront Flats district at Cleveland's downtown edge.

Newman's attorney, Kevin Spellacy, said Newman has reached a plea deal but declined to specify the terms.
Indianapolis veterans

(AP) -- The city of Indianapolis said it has broken ground on its first permanent supportive housing project for homeless veterans.

The $12 million project will be able to house 75 people in 50 one-bedroom apartments and 25 studio apartments.

It's located within a mile of the Roudebush VA Medical Center.

Volunteers of America of Indiana will coordinate continuing care at the site once it opens.

The Indianapolis Star reported the number of homeless military veterans in Indianapolis is estimated at 700 and rising.
Talking trash

(AP) -- A group fighting a proposed garbage-to-energy plant sued Ada County, alleging commissioners violated the Idaho Constitution when they loaned $2 million to the project's promoters.

Idaho Citizens for a Safe Environment and a Transparent Government, which opposes the plan by a start-up energy company to build a 22-megawatt power plant at the Ada County landfill, filed its lawsuit Thursday in 4th District Court.

The group's 56-page complaint contends, among other things, that the county's $2 million loan to Dynamis to design the plant violates provisions of the Idaho Constitution that limit public indebtedness.

Ada County commissioners including Sharon Ullman have promoted the project to help the county landfill avoid expensive expansion, while producing steady electricity.

But foes fear gasifying garbage as proposed is unproven and could produce harmful pollution.
UK prices rose

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. house prices rose for the first time in five months in October as the market rebounded from a post-Olympic slump, Acadametrics Ltd. said.

The average price of a home in England and Wales climbed 0.1 percent from September to 225,954 pounds ($360,900), Acadametrics and LSL Property Services Plc said in a report Friday. From a year earlier, values rose 2.3 percent.

Acadametrics said transactions may have risen to 65,675 in October from 53,125, which was the second lowest for a September since 1995.

It said this surge was probably a “one-off adjustment as opposed to a fundamental shift in demand resulting from an increase in mortgage availability.”

Out of the 10 regions tracked by Acadametrics and LSL, five posted declines in the three months through October from the same period a year earlier and five increased, according to the report.
Fatal evictions

(AP) -- A woman in Spain jumped to her death as bailiffs approached to evict her Friday from her fourth-floor apartment for failing to pay the mortgage, officials said.

In a suburb of the northern Spanish city of Bilbao, the unnamed 53-year-old, who worked at a local bus depot, was married to a former town councilor and had a 21-year-old daughter, threw herself from her balcony, the regional Interior Ministry said.

Local judge Juan Carlos Mediavilla told reporters at the scene that it was “necessary to amend current mortgage legislation” to prevent a recurrence of such events.

This is the second known death linked to recent evictions. On Oct. 25, Jose Miguel Domingo, 53, was found dead in the courtyard of his building in Granada moments after bailiffs appeared to evict him.

One day later, another 53-year-old man who had been unemployed for four years jumped out of the window of his apartment in the eastern town of Burjassot as eviction loomed. He survived the fall.
Razing illegal homes

(AP) -- Bulldozers moved in on a South African town Friday, destroying homes that officials said were constructed on illegally sold land, despite efforts by protesters to stop the demolitions.

The housing department of the province of Gauteng said it demolished 14 houses on Friday in Lenasia.

The department said it had identified 113 houses in the area that it said were illegally built on land intended for government houses.

“Investigations by the department's anti-fraud and corruption unit revealed that fraudsters sold several stands (for amounts) ranging from 2,500 rand ($285) to 95,000 rand ($10,860) and issued buyers with fraudulent deeds of sale which bore the department's official logo,” it said in a statement.

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