[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/21/art.frank1.gi.jpg caption="Rep. Barney Frank is chairman of the House Financial Services committee."]
CNN Financial News Producer
The CEOs of many of the nation's largest banks are telling Congress they are continuing to lend money, even as they’ve come under severe scrutiny in recent weeks about their use of billions of dollars in government bailout money.
At a closely-watched hearing on Capitol Hill this morning, the top executives from such embattled firms as Citigroup and Bank of America are defending their actions since receiving $165 billion last fall, saying that without government assistance, credit would be even harder to obtain.
New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is accusing Merrill Lynch of “secretly” doling out billions of dollars in bonuses before reporting a huge quarterly loss and being absorbed by Bank of America.
In a letter to Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Cuomo says Merrill’s decision to “secretly and prematurely award approximately $3.6 billion in bonuses, and Bank of America's apparent complicity in it, raise serious and disturbing questions.”
Cuomo says Merrill gave bonuses of at least $1 million each to 696 employees, with a combined $121 million going to the top four recipients.
Stocks on Wall Street opened modestly higher today with the focus on the banking sector as those executives testify before Congress. Stocks tumbled on Tuesday in reaction to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s plan to revamp the $700 billion financial bailout, with investors concerned that the new plan appears to be both under funded and woefully short on details. As one of our colleagues at CNN put it, investors, “were expecting a blueprint and they got a sketch on a napkin."
The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in December to a six-year low as the ongoing recession cut into Americans' appetite for goods from overseas.
The Commerce Department says the gap between the nation's imports and exports fell 4% to just under $40 billion dollars in December, while the politically-sensitive deficit with China also shrank.
For all of 2008, the trade gap narrowed more than 3% - marking the second-straight year of shrinking annual trade deficits for the U.S.
As Congress appears closer to finalizing the economic recovery plan, CNNMoney.com has a look how the stimulus can help your wallet.
Gas prices rose 1.2 cents overnight to $1.940 a gallon. That’s the 14th consecutive increase. Eleven states have regular unleaded gas prices of $2 and higher. 39 states and the District of Columbia have regular unleaded gas prices below $2. The highest gas prices are in Alaska ($2.532). The cheapest gas prices are in Wyoming ($1.663).
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