29 Sep 2008

Congress to vote on rescue plan

8:41 pm on 29 September 2008

Members of the United States Congress are preparing for a first vote on a $US700 billion rescue plan for ailing financial institutions.

Congressional leaders from both parties have praised a deal reached after a week of negotiations with the Bush administration.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi says the era of recklessness is over for Wall Street.

After marathon talks, congressional leaders from both parties emerged early on Sunday with a tentative agreement that altered key parts of a Wall Street bailout programme proposed by the Bush administration.

The plan would use taxpayer funds to buy toxic mortgage debt from a range of financial institutions in the hope of stemming the credit crisis.

The legislation would disburse the funds in stages, limit "golden parachutes" for executives at companies participating in the programme and set up an oversight board to supervise the programme, which would be run the US Treasury.

House Republicans won a provision that would set up an insurance programme for mortgage-backed securities.

Democrats say the government will get stock warrants so taxpayers can gain as companies recover. They want to limit payments for executives of failed banks and ensure there is adequate help for struggling homeowners.

However, on Friday they made a key concession, dropping their proposal to amend bankruptcy laws to allow judges to suspend repossession notices on foreclosed homes.

The upheaval in Washington comes after a month of turbulence marked by the government's takeover of mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the bailout of insurer AIG and the bankruptcy of investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Regulators seized savings and loan bank Washington Mutual on Friday in the biggest bank failure in US history, selling its assets to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Central banks in Japan, Australia, Switzerland, and Britain began pumping more cash into money markets, rattled by news of another bank failure and the bailout plan's setback.

New Zealand effect

Banks in New Zealand are eagerly awaiting the conclusion of talks on the rescue package.

BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander says weak global sharemarkets will only get worse without the package. He says it has become more difficult for banks in New Zealand to access funds because of the events of the past two weeks, and the cost of borrowing from overseas is high.

ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie says the bailout will stablise global conditions, but he doubts it will cause a significant turnaround in the US.