The European Central Bank has cut its key interest rate by a quarter percentage point to 1 percent, a modest step to help revive the eurozone economy as it slides toward recession because of the debt crisis. It was the second rate cut in only five weeks for the bank, the top monetary authority for the 17 nations that use the euro. But markets are hopeful that the ECB will soon take more aggressive steps to save the euro. European stocks and the euro were steady after the rate decision, which had been expected.Buffett’s $2 Billion Solar Bet Receives ‘Attractive’ Power Rates (Bloomberg Businessweek) Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway may have picked the right time to invest in Solar Bet. The 550-megawatt Topaz project may be the last large solar farm to qualify for the U.S. Treasury Department incentive program, and will sell electricity under a long-term contract that was completed before prices for solar panels fell 44 percent in the last year. Costco First-Quarter Profit Trails Estimates (Bloomberg)
Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST), the largest U.S. warehouse-club chain, posted a 2.6 percent increase in first-quarter profit that trailed analysts’ estimates amid risings costs that reduced margins. Net income advanced to $320 million, or 73 cents a share, in the quarter ended Nov. 20, from $312 million, or 71 cents, a year earlier, the Issaquah, Washington-based company said today in a statement. Analysts projected 80 cents, the average of 19 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.Lucas Rips MF Global (Morning Money)
From House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas’ opening statement to be delivered at this morning’s MF Global (MF) hearing, at which former CEO Jon Corzine may invoke his fifth amendment right not to testify: “The very cornerstone of the futures markets, customer funds segregation, has been severely and suddenly called into question. ... There are now reports that as much as much as $1.2 billion may have disappeared. Dozens of my constituents have been left not only without their property, but also without answers about why and how this happened. ... From the start, I’d like to make it clear that our intent is not to sensationalize the events that have unfolded. And we are not here today to simply or haphazardly point fingers and place blame.”S&P Puts European Union On Notice (CNNMoney)
Standard & Poor has put the European Union on review for a possible downgrade Wednesday following similar action against 15 members of the euro currency union on Monday. S&P's move Wednesday targeted the European Union as an institution and does not have any impact on the credit ratings of EU members that don't use the euro currency, such as the United Kingdom. France is already seen as the most likely candidate to be stripped of its AAA status, but the decision to review Germany, the euro area's most creditworthy nation, points to the severity of the crisis. France and Germany alone accounted for 32% of the EU's budgeted revenues for this year, S&P said in Wednesday's announcement.Rajaratnam Appeals $93 Million Fine (FINalternatives)
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff slapped Rajaratnam with a $92.8 million penalty last month, the maximum allowed by law, equal to three times the Galleon Group founder's illicit gains. The fine is on top of $63.8 million in fines and restitution Rajaratnam paid after his conviction in May. The one-time billionaire began serving an 11-year prison sentence on Monday. He plans to appeal both that sentence and his conviction, as well as the SEC fine. Rajaratnam's filing yesterday allows him to appeal the final judgment in the SEC case.