12 Feb 2009

Compromise deal reached on US economic package

3:01 pm on 12 February 2009

The United States Congress and the Obama administration have reached a deal on a $US789 billion economic stimulus package aimed at rescuing the faltering American economy.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid told reporters negotiators had bridged differences between a $US820 billion House of Representatives version of the package and a $US838 billion version passed by the Senate.

Some 3.5 million jobs would be created under the package and that more than one-third of it would be dedicated to tax cuts and incentives for middle-class Americans, he said.

Negotiators worked around the clock to reconcile the differences and shave off spending and tax incentives to get it below $US800 billion as some Republicans demanded.

Mr Reid did not reveal specific details of the compromise. He said votes on the final stimulus bill could come as early as Thursday.

Senators said more than one-third of the bill was dedicated to middle class tax cuts, and it would create 3.5 million jobs.

New bank rescue plan

On Tuesday, the US Treasury unveiled a revamped financial rescue plan to absorb $US500 billion in banks' spoiled assets and support $US1 trillion in new lending through an expanded Federal Reserve programme.

The renamed "Financial Stability Plan," rolled out by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will also devote $US50 billion in federal rescue funds to try to stem home foreclosures and soften the impact of the deep housing crisis.

The Treasury said a public-private investment fund will be established, seeded with government money, to leverage private capital so that so-called toxic assets can be sponged out of the faltering banking system.

The hope is that this measure will enable banks to resume lending.

Mr Geithner said the public-private investment fund would start at $US500 billion but could expand to up to $US1 trillion in financing capacity.

He acknowledged that deep scepticism has developed over the fairness and efficiency of a $US700 billion bank bailout program approved by Congress in October.

After Mr Geithner's announcement, stock prices fell further and the dollar extended losses while prices for US Treasury debt securities extended gains.