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Treasury now ready to buy any bad debt, not just mortgages

Section: Daily Dispatches

U.S. Treasury Widens Plan to Buy Bad Debt

By Dawn Kopecki
Bloomberg News
Sunday, November 21, 2008

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration widened the scope of its $700 billion plan to avert a financial meltdown by including assets other than mortgage-related securities.

The U.S. Treasury submitted revised guidance to Congress on its plan a day after first submitting it, as lawmakers and lobbyists push their own ideas. Officials now propose buying what they term troubled assets, without specifying the type, according to a document obtained by Bloomberg News and confirmed by a congressional aide.

The change suggests the inclusion of instruments such as car and student loans, credit-card debt, and any other troubled asset. That may force an eventual increase in the size of the package as Democrats and Republicans in Congress negotiate the final legislation with the Bush administration, analysts said.

"The costs of the bailout will be significantly higher than originally considered or acknowledged," said Josh Rosner, an analyst with independent research firm Graham Fisher & Co. in New York. "How, given these changes, can the administration and Federal Reserve believe they are being forthright in their unrevised expectation of future losses?"

In another change today, the Treasury said it would limit its $50 billion plan for insuring money-market funds to those held by investors as of Sept. 19, excluding any subsequent contributions.

The American Bankers' Association, which had expressed concern about the plan last week, praised the move, saying it would eliminate an incentive for savers to shift out of bank accounts into money-market funds.

In its latest guidance on the bad-debt fund, the Treasury said firms that are headquartered outside the U.S. will now be eligible.

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