Friday, October 19, 2007

Barack Obama Hits Over $2 Million On Way To $2.1 Million Goal

Angered by the knoweldge that a difference of just $2.1 million between his third quarter fundraising tallies and those of his challenger Senator Hillary Clinton was made up of lobbyist's money, Senator Barack Obama embarked on a fund-raising campaign that consisted of a series of emails to supporters. That started on Monday evening.

Now, on Friday, as of this writing, the campaign has raised $2,044,009 and is well on its way toward meeting that $2.1 million objective.

Bills express interest in playing at least one home game in Toronto

Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills intend to play a few games in Canada, eh?

That's the plan after the Bills announced on Thursday they are seeking approval to play a preseason and at least one regular-season game in Toronto. It's part of the franchise's attempt to expand its market base beyond western New York.

"The team hopes to capitalize on the increasing interest of fans in the Canadian market by playing a regular-season game in Toronto," the Bills announced in a release.

The Bills hope to play a preseason game at Toronto next summer, with plans to play a regular-season game as early as 2009. The games would be played at Rogers Center, a downtown stadium with a retractable roof that serves as home to baseball's Blue Jays and the Canadian Football League Argonauts.
The Bills require both county and state approval to play "home games" outside of Ralph Wilson Stadium as a condition of their lease, which runs through 2012. The lease requires the team to play half its preseason and all regular-season home games at the Orchard Park facility.

The team began the process by sending a letter of request to Erie County on Wednesday.

The Bills would also need approval from the NFL, considered a formality with the league already scheduling games in international markets. In two weeks, Miami and the New York Giants will play at London's Wembley Stadium in the first NFL game outside North America. In 2005, Arizona and San Francisco played in Mexico City in the first regular-season game outside the United States.

Toronto is the next logical choice as part of the Bills' expansion plans. Canada's largest metropolitan center is a 90-mile drive from Buffalo, boasts a large corporate base that can translate into additional marketing revenue, and the team also draws an average of 15,000 Canadian fans to its home games.

The Bills also consider this an opportunity to lure Toronto companies to purchase corporate suites at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills currently have three suites unsold and, next season, will unveil new prime suites as part of a plan to relocate the existing press box.

The Bills stressed the games at Toronto are part of their regionalization plans and should not be considered a first step for the franchise's relocation. The Bills noted the success they've enjoyed since moving their training camp in 2000 to Rochester, where they've taken advantage of the city's corporate base.

Bills owner Ralph Wilson, who turned 89 on Wednesday, has maintained he has no intention of selling or relocating the franchise. The team's future remains unclear because Wilson has no plans to keep the franchise in his family once he dies, leaving the door open for a new owner to move the team.

Toronto newspapers have published stories speculating whether the city can be a viable NFL market, and most often mention the Bills as a prime candidate.

Bank of America earnings drop 32%

By Ross Kerber, Globe Staff | October 19, 2007

Bank of America Corp., the nation's largest retail bank, reported yesterday that third-quarter earnings plummeted 32 percent because of problems in mortgage and credit markets. But analysts said the bank's woes are unlikely to have an effect on consumers or businesses in Massachusetts, a market the bank dominates.

The dichotomy reflects the vast reach of the Charlotte institution, from global financial services to neighborhood bank branches.

Bank of America stumbled in the first area, suffering growing credit losses and poor results at its investment banking unit. But at the same time the bank's lending to consumers and businesses remained on track. So did results of its big Global Wealth and Investment Management unit, the Boston operation that includes its Columbia mutual funds brand.

Morningstar analyst Jaime Peters said there is no reason the local units would be held back by Bank of America's other issues, or that New England operations would suffer as a result. "They're using the power of their balance sheet to continue to lend," she said. "There's no reason to expect a pullback is going to happen."

Shares of Bank of America fell 2.4 percent to $48.85 in trading yesterday after the company's morning earnings release. For the three months ended Sept. 30 the bank had net income of $3.7 billion, down from $5.4 billion a year earlier.

The chief reason was a $1.3 billion fall in earnings from the bank's Global Corporate and Investment Banking division, largely based in New York. The costs of provisions for bad loans rose $865 million, which the bank partly blamed on a weaker US housing market that required it to add reserves for home equity and home builder loans whose borrowers were falling behind on payments.

Those problems were only partly offset by brighter spots such as its Global Wealth and Investment Management division, whose assets under management rose to $710 billion from $517 billion a year earlier, including the acquisition in July of US Trust, the big private banking company. Net income for the division rose to $599 million for the quarter, from $513 million a year earlier.

Michael Mullaney, a portfolio manager at Fiduciary Trust Co. in Boston that owns 1.2 million Bank of America shares, said he was troubled by the results and that the company likely will review whether to sell the stock.

Before yesterday, Mullaney said, he had considered Bank of America a better bet than the country's two other giant banks, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase. But now it seems the two New York banks have been able to weather the summer's credit problems more smoothly than Bank of America, he said.

"Clearly they've been able to operate through this a lot better," he said.

Bank of America's results also showed how a bank that held relatively few securities backed by subprime mortgage investments could still suffer financially as equities markets grew volatile this summer over concerns about the insecurity of the instruments held by other banks. The volatility ruined many of the bank's trading strategies and wiped out nearly all the Global Corporate unit's profits of $1.4 billion in the year-ago quarter, even though Bank of America had mostly stopped originating subprime mortgages three years ago, NAB Research analyst Nancy Bush said.

"The problem for them isn't subprime holdings, the problem is what happened in the markets because of subprime," Bush said.

On a conference call yesterday, Bank of America executives struck an apologetic tone with analysts who had expected better results, but indicated overall lending will continue. "Although we are very disappointed at the magnitude of the hit we took, the strength in our other businesses allowed us to maintain our strategic direction," said chief executive Kenneth D. Lewis.

Later Lewis and the bank's chief financial officer, Joe Price, defended the quality of its loan portfolio and dismissed a concern that problems could spread as in previous economic slowdowns. "These are really good-quality numbers" in the lending portfolios, Lewis said. "To say that we're concerned about overall credit quality would be going way too far."

Because of its size, Bank of America's lending terms matter more than most banks in Massachusetts. In a recent survey of business executives here, about 20 percent said they felt access to loans has grown more expensive, according to the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a trade group representing manufacturers. Its spokesman, Brian Gilmore, said the lending market seems competitive with rivals such as Citizens Bank and Eastern still making loans. "It's a mixed picture," he said.

Bank of America had 198,000 employees worldwide as of Sept. 30, down from 200,220 employees a year earlier. In August, the bank said it had 9,000 Massachusetts employees, a figure a spokesman did not update yesterday.