WASHINGTON -- Federal regulators voted Wednesday to shut down illegal but oft-practiced after-hours trading in mutual funds, bidding to restore investor confidence staggered by a spreading industry scandal. The Securities and Exchange Commission agreed by a 5-0 margin on tentative approval of a rule that would set 4 p.m. Eastern as the cutoff for pricing of fund shares. It is the first step in regulators' planned overhaul of the $7 trillion fund industry.
Saudis: Cut in production of crude likely in spring
VIENNA, Austria -- Global demand for oil is sufficient to soak up current output, but Saudi Arabia, de facto leader of OPEC, warned that a cut in crude production was likely when seasonal demand falls next spring. Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali Naimi hinted Wednesday that he supported other members of the oil producer's group calling for no change in output at this week's meeting on production policy. However, he warned "there is a high possibility" that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will have to cut production early next year if it hopes to avert a springtime slump in prices.
Wal-Mart puts halt to MasterCard debit cards
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will stop accepting signature debit cards issued by MasterCard starting in February, the first major retailer to take such action since a lawsuit settlement freed merchants to pick which credit and debit card services they use. Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, said Wednesday that MasterCard's fees for the signature debit cards are too high. It will continue to accept Visa's signature debit cards. A MasterCard spokesman didn't return a call for comment Wednesday morning.
Farmers in fear of cuts for purchases of tobacco
RALEIGH, N.C. -- U.S. cigarette manufacturers said Wednesday they will purchase about 29 million fewer pounds of domestic flue-cured tobacco in the coming year, and farmers say that means some of them will go out of business. "This is basically driving the last nail in the coffin," said Keith Parrish, who grew 50 acres near the eastern North Carolina town of Coats. Purchase intentions announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are a critical component of the 2004 tobacco production quota, which the department is scheduled to announce later this month. Quota is the amount of tobacco individual farmers are allowed to grow under the federal price support system.
-- From wire reports